A 17-year-old Maryland high school student who has never been to Kansas could see his long-shot attempt at becoming the state's governor come to an end if a new lawsuit from the state’s attorney general is successful.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in a statement Tuesday that he is making an effort to keep people outside of Kansas from running for governor this year.
“It’s better for Kansans to know from the courts the answer to the residency question before the ballot is set and the votes for governor are cast,” Schmidt said in a statement.
Schmidt’s office announced Tuesday that he has filed a lawsuit in Shawnee County District Court saying that “in a circumstance without precedent, 10 people who reside in other states already have taken the initial step required to become candidates for Kansas governor in the 2018 election.”
“It appears that the Legislature always has intended candidates for Kansas governor to reside in our state,” Schmidt said in a statement. “Other states have written their residency requirements more clearly, so we’re asking the court to interpret Kansas law so the meaning will be clear.”
The lawsuit lists Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the state’s top election official and a Republican running for governor this year, as the defendant. Schmidt also is a Republican.
In a statement, Kobach said the view of his office is that "Kansas law contains no express statement on this question one way or the other. And therefore, our office agrees with the Attorney General’s office that a declaratory judgement by the court would be helpful before the June 1st deadline."
“At this point, none of the potential out-of-state candidates have paid a filing fee or submitted petition signatures," Kobach said. "At that point, if it occurs, the question of ballot access will need to be answered.”
At the moment, the state has no requirements on who can run for governor. The lack of an age or residency requirement has led to a slew of teenagers and non-Kansans to run for governor.
The gap in the law has gained national attention, and others across the country, including people in Delaware and Pennsylvania, have formed campaign committees for a Kansas gubernatorial run.
A man even tried, and failed, to get his dog on the ballot.
The Kansas House passed a bill earlier this year that would keep minor teenagers from becoming governor, saying that candidates had to at least be 18 and a Kansas resident.
An amended version of the legislation passed by the Senate also says that candidates must be a qualified Kansas elector and also raised the age limit to 30.
A finalized bill has yet to make it to Gov. Jeff Colyer's desk.
In the statement announcing the lawsuit, Schmidt’s office noted that the Kansas teenagers running for governor would not be affected by the lawsuit.
But Ilan Cohen, a 17-year-old high school student from Bethesda, Maryland, would see his candidacy in trouble if Schmidt's lawsuit prevails.
"I think it's an unnecessary thing to be doing," he said. "I already trust the people of Kansas to make the right decision."