Kansas Governor Race Turns Childish and Doggish, Literally

March 9, 2018

Currently, the State of Kansas does not have any age requirements to run for the highest office in the State, that of Governor. Seeing the lack of any requirements, a few enthusiastic high schools and a dog decided to avail themselves of the opportunity to run for the office.

A total of six students have decided to run for Kansas Governor: Jack Bergeson (16 years old), Dominic Scavuzzo (17 years old), Joseph Tutera (16 years old), Aaron Coleman (17 years old), Tyler Ruzich (17 years old), and Ethan Randleas (17 years old). Of the six teenage candidates, one is running as a Democratic, 4 as Republicans, and one as an independent.

Being under 18, the teenage candidates have faced backlash and criticism but have stood their ground. One of the candidates, Coleman, was quoted saying: “Really if you look at it, our generation is getting screwed over so bad . . . This could educate voters. They might say, if I could run, then you could run. It’s really just about getting more people involved.”

In addition, Bergeson clarified that he is not running as a joke, but rather to make a point. He stated:

Allow me to clear up a misconception, I am not running for governor as a stunt, or a gag…I am running for governor because of the minimum wage worker that has to work three jobs just to get by . . . I am running because our education system has been lagging behind other states. I am running to get money out of politics, but most importantly, I am running to get as many people involved in politics as possible.

Each of the young candidates has policies they are advocating for and are hoping to get people involved in the political process.

And if the high school students weren’t enough to make the Governor race interesting, a dog named Angus tried to run for the top spot. Angus is a 3 year old Vizsla who’s owner, Terran Woolley thought had the right qualities for the Governor’s office. However, Kansas’ Secretary of State announced that the dog cannot run for Governor because she is a dog. Currently, there is no explicit law that prevents a dog from running in Kansas. Bryan Caskey, Director of Elections for the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office mentioned that there are references in many statutes that the Governor must be an individual person and not a dog. No word on what party Angus tried to represent.

The lack of requirements for Governorship has prompted the State legislature to propose some eligibility requirements. Kansas and Vermont are the only states not to have a minimum age requirement for the Governor’s office. Legislators in Kansas are trying to remedy that by proposing a bill to set the minimum age for candidacy to be 18 years for the offices of Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Treasurer, and State Commissioner of Insurance. The proposed bill would not prevent the current high school students from running if enacted because the requirements would not be until after the current election.

Kansas has been facing a myriad of budgetary problems after championing itself as the beacon of Conservative economic policy. Governor Brownback introduced and enacted drastic tax cuts that have resulted in budget shortfalls resulting in cuts to funding in education and infrastructure among many civic spending areas. Who would have thought that tax cuts would lead to reduced government revenue forcing budget cuts.

After living out the consequences of tax cuts, Kansas legislators decided to increase taxes in 2017 which was seen as a blow to Governor Brownback’s agenda. The Legislature passed a passed a $1.2 billion tax increase despite the Governor’s veto. The tax increase resulted in Moody’s Investors Service increasing Kansas’ credit rating from negative to stable. In addition to increasing taxes, Kansas lawmakers tried to caution their colleagues at the Federal level from repeating their mistakes when they were having discussions over the tax cuts that were ultimately enacted late last year.

The debate on efficacy of tax cuts or increases are as old as this country. But one thing is for certain, the tax cuts in Kansas had a negative impact on the state’s education. Regardless of how outrageous it may seem for high school students to run for Governor, it may just be fair now that they are among the ones to step up and lead after paying the price of poor governance.

Image source: REUTERS/Terran Wooley

Not a Westlaw subscriber? Sign-up for a free trial today.