At least six teenagers have submitted paperwork to run in the November election for governor of Kansas, where lawmakers are now scrambling to change the rules to limit who can campaign for state office.
Jack Bergeson, 16, was the first teen to jump into the race after he realized there was no age requirement stopping him from doing so.
Five other teens— Aaron Coleman, 17; Joseph Tutera Jr., 16; Tyler Ruzich, 17; Dominic Scavuzzo, 17; and Ethan Randleas, 18—announced their bids for the seat in the months that followed.
“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 last year. “So there’s seriously nothing on the books that lays out anything, no age, no residency, no experience. Nothing.”
Bergeson is running as a Democrat, while Scavuzzo and Ruzich are running as Republicans. Coleman is running as a Green party candidate and Randleas is running on a Libertarian platform.
All five have created campaign websites or social media pages that explain why they have chosen to run and the platforms on which they are running.
“I may be too young to vote, but I am not too young to see the problems in Kansas that the government should be, but is not, working to fix,” Bergeson writes on his campaign website. “I am a Kansas resident and a student before I am a politician, which has inspired me to run for office, to make changes for the people, people like me, who want the best for Kansas.”
Ruzich, whose slogan is “a Republican for the next generation,” said on his campaign website that he is a “young man with serious concerns about the welfare of our state and some ideas about how we can make Kansas a better place to live, learn and work.
“I was elected president of the Freshman Class, and I have been involved in student government ever since. I currently serve on the city of Prairie Village's Teen Council. That’s why I feel so strongly about my candidacy — I truly want to help people,” Ruzich continued.
Coleman noted he has been interested in politics his whole life and wants to work to disband “the military-industrial complex.”
“This constant state of war is bankrupting our nation. We need peace not further war,” he wrote.
“I am running to shake up Topeka, breaking up the stranglehold of statism(sic) that has began to cast its dark shadow over our great state,” Randleas, a senior at Wichita Heights High School, said on his website. “I may be young, but that does not mean that I am incapable of serving the people of Kansas.”
Lawmakers, however, feel differently.
Republican Rep. Blake Carpenter introduced a bill requiring candidates to be at least 18 years old to run for the state's top elected offices, including secretary of state, attorney general—and governor.
Those wanting to run for governor or lieutenant governor would have to have lived in the state for at least four years, the bill notes.
"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 Republican running for secretary of state, told The Topeka Capital-Journal.
The bill, HB 2539, passed out of the House committee on Monday.
“Hey, I get the idea,” Tutera wrote on Twitter of the lawmakers’ concerns. “However, you will be alienating candidates who represent the concerns and viewpoints of young adults across party lines.”
The mid-term election will be held on Nov. 6.