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US Teenagers Seeking Election as State Governor


Ethan Sonneborn, 13, has launched a campaign for governor in the state of Vermont. (Twitter)

At least four teenagers have launched campaigns for governor in two American states.

The young people have declared their candidacy in states that do not have age requirements to serve as governor.

Ethan Randleas is a 17-year-old from Wichita, Kansas. He was the most recent teenager to announce his candidacy. He wants to represent the Republican Party in the state’s 2018 gubernatorial elections.

Two other Kansas teenagers have also launched campaigns. They are 17-year-old Republican Tyler Ruzich, of Prairie Village, and 16-year-old Jack Bergeson of Wichita. Bergeson wants to be the Democratic Party’s nominee.

It is ironic that some of the candidates will not be able to vote for themselves because they must be 18 years old to vote.

The current Kansas governor is Sam Brownback, who has served two four-year terms. State law prevents governors from serving more than two back-to-back terms. Other, non-teenage candidates are also hoping to be elected governor.

Kansas officials say the state has no legal requirements for the office. “There’s nothing in the law – there’s no age, no citizenship, no residency, no nothing,” the state’s director of elections, Bryan Caskey told the The Hutchinson News.

Candidates only have to pay a small amount of money to get their name on the ballot. Ethan Randleas has started a Go Fund Me campaign to raise money. He says he will need to raise $2,300 by June 2018 to be put on the Republican primary ballot.

Ethan Randleas, 17, is one of at least three people teenagers running for governor of Kansas. (GoFundMe)
Ethan Randleas, 17, is one of at least three people teenagers running for governor of Kansas. (GoFundMe)

Randleas calls himself a “conservatarian,” which he described as someone who supports a combination of conservative and libertarian values.

“We just had a president win on the campaign promise of draining the swamp,” he told the Kansas City Star newspaper. “And if you really want to drain the swamp, you get the complete outsiders, and that’s what I am.”

Randleas also said he generally believes that the government should stay out of anything that does not involve the protection of life, liberty or property.

Jack Bergeson, 16, is one of at least three candidates running for governor of Kansas. (Facebook)
Jack Bergeson, 16, is one of at least three candidates running for governor of Kansas. (Facebook)

Jack Bergeson says he has been interested in the political process for as long as he can remember. But he decided to enter politics himself after watching Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who sought the Democratic presidential nomination last year. The teenager describes himself as “a Bernie Sanders-style left-wing Democrat/Progressive.”

Like Sanders, Bergeson has campaigned for a higher minimum wage. He also supports reduced taxes for poor families, pay increases for teachers and the legalization of marijuana.

The third teen candidate in Kansas, Tyler Ruzich, says he decided to run after Bergeson announced his candidacy.

“I thought that was just so cool that someone my age was doing that,” Ruzich told the Kansas City Star. “He really started to tell me, well, why aren’t you throwing your hat in the race?”

Tyler Ruzich, 17, is one of at least three teenagers running for governor of Kansas.
Tyler Ruzich, 17, is one of at least three teenagers running for governor of Kansas.

Since the parties have yet to nominate candidates, it is possible Kansas voters could be choosing between two teenagers next year.

On the East Coast, 13-year-old Ethan Sonneborn has launched a campaign for governor in Vermont. He sent out his own press release announcing the move. Sonneborn has repeatedly answered questions with interested media.

“I'd rather lose a fight with a lot of visibility than lose a fight quietly,” he told the Burlington Free Press.

On his Facebook page, Sonneborn talks about what he considers the main issues in his campaign. These include support for rebuilding infrastructure across Vermont and lowering taxes on the middle class. He also said he is “proud to be the most pro-choice, pro-gender equality candidate.”

Sonneborn told the Free Press that local Democratic Party officials have been slow to take him seriously. He also admitted it will be difficult trying to travel around the state while still attending school.

But in the end, he said, he believes many of the state’s voters will see his age as a good thing, and give him their votes.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English. His report was based on stories from the Associated Press, Kansas City Star, The Hutchinson News and Burlington Free Press. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

ironic adj. strange or funny because it is different from what would be expected

libertarian – adj. political beliefs that promote civil liberties

swamp – n. wet and muddy land usually covered with water

minimum – adj. the least amount of something

marijuana – n. the dried leaves and flowers of the hemp plant, smoked as a drug

throw one’s hat into the race/ring idiom. announce an intention to run for office

visibility – n. how well or far a person can see

infrastructure – n. basic equipment and structures (such as roads and bridges) needed for a country to function properly​

gender – n. the behavioral or cultural qualities usually linked to one sex

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