Legislators In This State Panic Over 6 Teens Running for Governor

Beth Baumann
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Posted: Feb 11, 2018 9:00 AM
Legislators In This State Panic Over 6 Teens Running for Governor

Six teenagers in Kansas have filed paperwork with the state's Secretary of State in order to appear on the November ballot for Governor.

Although Kansas has some of the strictest voting laws in the United States, ironically enough, the state has no requirements —including age restrictions — for a person seeking the Governorship. 

"Under Kansas law, there is no law governing the qualifications for governor, not one," Bryan Caskey, director of elections at the Kansas secretary of state's office, told The Kansas City Star back in August. "So there's seriously nothing on the books that lays out anything, no age, no residency, no experience. Nothing."

Who Are the Teen Candidates?

17-year-old Jack Bergeson is an "anti-establishment" candidate seeking the Democratic nomination. His primary issues focus on raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour, legalizing medical marijuana and building a high-speed rail for major cities, National Public Radio reported.

Ethan Randleas, 17, is a libertarian who wants to repeal the corporate income tax and deregulate health care, The Witchita Eagle reported.

17-year-old Republican Tyler Ruzich supports strengthening Medicaid and providing criminal amnesty to drug users who seek medical help.

Dominic Scavuzzo, a 17-year-old Republican, is advocating for lower taxes. He wants the government to distribute education funding more equally.

Aaron Coleman, 17, is an independent who is focused on raising the state's minimum wage, legalizing marijuana and pushing for universal Medicaid, ABC News reported.

16-year-old Joseph Tutera Jr. is a Republican who wants to see economic prosperity.

How It All Began

Then 16-year-old Jack Bergeson decided to run for Governor when he realized there were no age requirements for the office.

Here is Bergeson's statement on his website about why he's running:

As a student in Kansas, I see how a younger generation of liberals is being quieted in a predominantly Republican state. In fact, most liberals feel like they do not have a strong voice in our state. Brownback and Colyer, our current Governor and Lt. Governor are strong Republicans and in 2018 it is time to turn to a Democrat to speak up for Liberals and Moderates in Kansas. As governor I plan to make tax reforms to help the lower and middle classes, and stop the 1% from holding all our state's wealth. With these reforms we will be able to make improvements to infrastructure and education, for both us and future generations. It is time to create a better Kansas, and I hope to receive your vote in 2018.

Soon after Bergeson's announcement, other youngsters followed suit.

Legislators Scramble to Pass Age Restrictions

Kansas State Rep. Blake Carpenter introduced legislation that would require different political offices to have minimum age requirements for candidates. 

Those who are in favor of the bill say age requirements are necessary. After all, there are age restrictions for those who are wanting to run for Congress and the Presidency. 

“We have age requirements on voters, and I really think that anybody who’s running should be able to vote for themselves,” Rep. Keith Esau, a candidate for secretary of state, told The Topeka Capital-Journal.

Interestingly enough, the Kansas Secretary of State's office is pushing to make sure this bill goes into effect before the November election. Kris Kobach, the current Secretary of State, is also running for the Governor's seat.

“The secretary of state does not want there to be any appearance of a conflict of interest concerning persons who are currently candidates and do not meet these proposed requirements,” Bryan Caskey, the Director of Elections for the Kansas Secretary of State, said.

Democratic Rep. Vic Miller brought up one interesting point: voters are very unlikely to elect a teenager to be Governor so why put restrictions on who can run?

Although Bergeson knows he's unlikely to win the Democratic nomination, he believes he's achieved something bigger: getting young people invested in politics.

"I know the chances are slim that I end up winning the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor this August, but since I started running, I have encouraged other people my age in this state as well as in the state of Vermont to run their own campaigns for governor and other statewide offices to share their policy viewpoints,” Bergeson told The Topeka Capital-Journal.