Time may be running out for underage teens with an eye on the Kansas governor’s office.
After six teenagers joined the 2018 governor’s race, lawmakers are considering requiring that people be at least 18 before they can become a candidate.
Under a bill that was passed out of a House committee on Monday, minors would no longer be able to be a candidate for governor or any of the state’s other top elected offices: lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, state treasurer and insurance commissioner.
A person becomes a candidate under state law when a number of things occur, including when they announce a campaign or appoint a treasurer, according to the revisor’s office.
If it became law, the measure would take effect after the 2018 election.
Republican Rep. Blake Carpenter of Derby introduced the bill, which calls for all candidates for the state’s top jobs to be “qualified electors.” Kansans can’t vote until the day they turn 18, according to the secretary of state’s office. All six of the teenage candidates for governor were under 18 when they announced their campaigns.
The bill also would require those running for governor and lieutenant governor to be a Kansas resident for at least four consecutive years. The bill doesn’t specify that the four years be immediately previous to the candidacy.
“If you are an adult in the eyes of government at age 18, you can serve in the military, you can do just about anything you want,” Carpenter said.
As it stands, Kansas law requires no qualifications of a candidate for governor.
“As of right now, inmates can run,” Carpenter said. “I also saw reports of people saying that cats and dogs could run.”
Adopting the qualified elector standard would eliminate those possibilities, according to the revisor’s office.
House Majority Leader Don Hineman, a Dighton Republican, said he supports the bill.
“Those who run for office should have standing to vote for that office,” he said.
The age loophole came to light after Wichita high school student Jack Bergeson, then 16, said in August he was seeking the seat as a Democrat.
“I don’t think it’s a good thing,” Bergeson, now 17, said of the legislation. “I’m not a fan of it. I think it’s a reactionary bill. I think it’s trying to disenfranchise candidates.”
Fellow candidate Tyler Ruzich, a 17-year-old Shawnee Mission North student, said Carpenter’s proposal is a “common sense proposal and idea.”
“If you’re able to register to vote, I think you should be able to run for elected office,” Ruzich said.
Rep. Vic Miller, a Topeka Democrat on the House elections committee, was critical of the bill this week.
“We’re not going to have a intelligence requirement,” Miller said. “...We have all the requirements we need right now and that is, that you don’t get elected unless the people decide to elect you.”
Carpenter said he teamed up with one of the teens in the race, 18-year-old Ethan Randleas of Wichita, to help draft the bill.
Randleas originally said he was running as a Republican, but in a statement released last week, he said he plans to “run under the Libertarian Party rather than continue to deal with the childishness that is the Republican Party in the state.”
After hearing Randleas’ about-face, Carpenter said, “I guess he worked with a child.”