Hot new trend for Kansas teenagers: Running for governor

Hot new trend for Kansas teenagers: Running for governor
© Screenshot/Jimmy Kimmel Live/YouTube

Kansas voters tired of traditional politicians running the state will have the option to pick the ultimate outsiders in next year’s primary elections — teenagers who won’t be old enough to vote for themselves.

Gov. Sam Brownback (R) is leaving office to take over a State Department role in the Trump administration. Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer (R), who will take over when Brownback leaves, is seeking a full term next year.

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A crowded field of seasoned contenders has already formed, including five current or former state legislators, the former mayor of Wichita and the state insurance commissioner. But to claim the nomination, they will all have to get by three candidates who haven’t yet made it to senior prom.

Jack Bergeson, 16, is seeking the Democratic nomination, alongside lieutenant governor candidate Alexander Cline, 17. Bergeson announced his candidacy in August, before getting a big boost from an August appearance on ABC late night host Jimmy Kimmel's show.

Last week, Tyler Ruzich became the youngest contender for the Republican nomination. He filed just before his 17th birthday. He will vie for the youth vote with Ethan Randleas, 17, of Wichita.

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

Even though the three gubernatorial candidates won’t be able to vote for themselves — at least in the state’s August primary — they have every right to run. The Kansas constitution limits the governor to two successive terms, but it does not say anything else about qualifications for office.

If any of the three manage to win, they would be the youngest governor in American history.

Until then, Stevens Mason, the first governor of Michigan, holds the title. Mason was appointed to serve as Michigan’s last territorial secretary before it became a state; when Michigan was admitted to the union in 1835, Mason won 91 percent of the vote to become its first governor — at age 23.

The youngest Republican governor in American history was Henry Warmoth, who became Louisiana’s governor at age 26 when the state was readmitted to the union after the Civil War.