At last count, four Kansas teenagers — Dominic Scavuzzo, Tyler Ruzich, Jack Bergeson and Ethan Randleas — have announced plans to run for governor.
There’s no minimum age for a governor in the state. That has prompted some to suggest the teenagers’ campaigns are a joke, designed to draw attention to the loophole.
Their candidacies are not a joke. In fact, they’re highly encouraging. The candidates seem smart and articulate. They signal to other younger Kansans that public policy matters.
Adding a young woman to the mix would be a welcome development. And Kansans should give all the candidates, including the youngest, serious attention.
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We are realists. It’s highly unlikely any of the teenage candidates will prevail in next year’s primaries, let alone a general election. And Kansas lawmakers will want to take a look at enacting a minimum age for candidates — voting age, at least, might be a good place to start.
Let’s be clear, though: Any age restrictions on candidates for governor must not take effect until after the 2018 elections. The four teenagers who’ve announced candidacies are playing by existing rules and should not be forced out by new requirements next year.
While we’re focusing on age as an issue, by the way, we may also want to turn our attention to candidates at the other end of the spectrum.
This week, Sen. Dianne Feinstein — the oldest member of the U.S. Senate — said she’ll run for re-election next year. If she wins, Feinstein, a Democrat, would be eligible to serve until she is 91 years old.
Feinstein isn’t the Senate’s only octogenarian. Seven current members, including Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, are in that club. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah may run next year, and he’s 83. Eighty-four-year-old Chuck Grassley was just re-elected in Iowa.
Studies suggest the current Congress, House and Senate, is among the oldest in history. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is 77.
We don’t support an age limit for politicians. But thinking about an elderly Congress isn’t a joke, either. This week a pharmacist who provides medicines for members of Congress said he fills Alzheimer’s prescriptions for some.
That deserves our attention.
Older members who willingly step aside can find other ways to serve. And there are bright, young politicians capable of providing new answers to old questions in Washington and the states. They need room, too.
That’s why the Kansas teenagers deserve serious attention. The next generation of leaders is knocking on the door, demanding a voice. We should hear them out, and aging politicians should think about other ways to make a difference.