16-year-old is running for Kansas governor seat

2017-08-13 22:09

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Topeka - He won't even be able to vote, but a 16-year-old Wichita high school student says he's serious about his bid to run for governor of Kansas.

Jack Bergerson has filed to run as a Democrat in the 2018 race for governor of Kansas, saying he wanted to give people another option, The Kansas City Star reported . And it doesn't faze him that he won't even be old enough to vote in the election.

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

When Bergeson, a junior at The Independent School in Wichita, found out about the lack of requirements, he thought, "Oh, I could do that."

"I thought, you know, let's give the people of Kansas a chance," Bergeson said. "Let's try something new that has never really been tried anywhere else before."

The teenager said he wants to "radically change" the health care system and would support legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, while being willing to explore legalization for recreational use. But he is conservative on gun rights and supports laws that allow people to openly carry their weapons.

New direction

"I think if you offer the people of Kansas something radical, something new so then that shows that we can move in a new direction, I think that will put the Democratic Party in a good position to win the seat next year," Bergeson said.

A classmate, 17-year-old Alexander Cline, will be his lieutenant governor. Cline will be able to vote in the election, since he will be 18 by then.

Other Democratic candidates running for the seat include former state Secretary of Agriculture Josh Svaty, former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and Arden Andersen, an Olathe doctor.

Bergerson's announcement on Monday garnered national attention, including an appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live." He told Kimmel one of the main reasons for his unusual campaign is to try and spark an interest in politics among his peers.

Michael Smith, a political scientist at Emporia State University, said that could be a positive part of the teenager's unusual campaign.

"If this guy is at all reasonable, it could be a very good thing," Smith said. "It's always such challenge to get young people to politically engage. ... I'm not saying he'll win the nomination or anything, but if he could talk to other, maybe not 16-year-olds but people just turning 18 and get them to engage, I mean it could be a really good thing."

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