Yes, these high school students running for governor. Jack Bergeson, a Democrat from Wichita High School, and Tyler Ruzick, a Republican from Shawnee Mission North High School.
Because the state doesn’t have any law setting a minimum age for candidacy, well, they are just the filing fee away from winding up on the ballots next August.
Now, we’re sure that they both have a core of voter support, probably parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles.
It’s great that both of the kids are interested in government, and there are classes for that sort of thing, learning just what a governor can do, and the role of state government in the lives of Kansans.
But… let’s be politely serious for a moment. Besides the cute newspaper stories they generate, they probably have the potential to take a couple hundred votes from the general election races for grown-up (depending on their platforms) candidates for the top job in the state, and that might have an effect on the tens of thousands of state employees and the hundreds of thousands of Kansans who receive services from state government.
Oh, and the youngsters probably also will raise some campaign contributions that won’t go into the races of adult candidates who have actually bounced around state government, understand worker compensation laws, criminal justice, bonds and interest, taxes and general public policy.
Maybe their candidacies will get some folks who generally don’t vote out to the polls, where they will vote on other statewide and congressional and state legislative candidates. There could be a down-ballot effect that is useful.
Or … they might win votes from folks who look at the ballot, don’t see anyone they know or like, and just decide they’ll choose a candidate who they haven’t heard anything icky about. Yes, that happens.
Those bright kids’ votes might just turn out to be a “none of the above” option for voters, and both parties have seen general election candidates who turned out to be “none of the above.”
Might be interesting if one of those high schoolers decided that the school board is where he has actual experience with the product and sees some little changes that most grown-ups won’t have considered. There is an advantage to having a candidate who has actually used the product, or in the case of school boards, is the product of a government agency.
Given a few years, a little more experience, or as some say, to have been tumble-dried, those youngsters may be good candidates for changing state government. But it takes time, experience, and the basic understanding of just how government works to produce a real candidate.
There are jobs that you want a journeyman to tackle.
Best part about those candidacies are that they might spur more young people to vote, to assess candidates and their intentions if elected, and their chances of either making the changes that Kansans want in their government or preserving the government that appeals to the voters.
The youthful candidates — old enough to drive to their inaugurations, but not to toast a victory with anything but a soft drink — are probably going to learn more about politics than they will in their poly-sci classes.
If that’s how things work out, that their candidacies bring more interest to the elections, well, it doesn’t get much better than that.
So, should a high school student become governor? Probably not. But should a high school student experience the excitement, the learning possibilities of a candidacy? Sure. But we also have to hope that most Kansans will recognize that their candidacies give us all a reason to look more closely at our elected officials, and candidates who just might impact our lives.
And, we suspect that the high schoolers’ candidacies will get them prom dates.
— Syndicated by Hawver News Company LLC of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver's Capitol Report—to learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit the website at www.hawvernews.com