Government & Politics

Bill to prevent minors, or a dog, from becoming Kansas governor moves forward

When a Hutchinson man last week filed paperwork for a gubernatorial run by Angus P. Woolley, the secretary of state’s office said no. But Kansas law currently holds no requirements for governor.
When a Hutchinson man last week filed paperwork for a gubernatorial run by Angus P. Woolley, the secretary of state’s office said no. But Kansas law currently holds no requirements for governor.

Kansas lawmakers moved forward Tuesday with a bill that will keep minor teenagers from becoming governor.

The Kansas House voted 73-43 Tuesday to give initial approval to legislation that would impose requirements on who can run for the state’s executive office. The legislation will not affect the 2018 election.

At the moment, the state has no requirements on who can run for governor — leading a Hutchinson man last week to try to file papers for his dog as a candidate.

“Right now there are more requirements for the people who are sitting in here than there are for our head of state positions,” Republican Rep. Blake Carpenter of Derby, who introduced the bill, said on the House floor.

The age loophole came to light after Wichita high school student Jack Bergeson, then 16, said in August that he was running for governor.

More than a half-dozen teens have now announced runs for governor.

The gap in the law has led others across the country, including people in Delaware and Pennsylvania, to form campaign committees for a Kansas gubernatorial run.

Bergeson, a Democrat who is now 17, called the bill patronizing and wrong.

“They are doing this because they are afraid,” he said. “Because candidates of an unusual type are running and they are bringing up issues that had not been addressed previously by the political establishment.”

Under the bill, minors would no longer be able to be a candidate for governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, state treasurer and insurance commissioner. Candidates would need to be “qualified electors” in Kansas.

Some lawmakers were vocal in their opposition to the bill, including Rep. Brandon Whipple, a Wichita Democrat.

“There are people who are going out there and using that as a platform to talk to us and to talk to the public about their issues,” Whipple said. “And what we did today is we silenced their voice. And I don’t think that is our job.”

The House agreed on a 71-41 vote on the floor to amend the legislation to also mandate that every candidate for attorney general be licensed to practice law in the state.

An effort to raise the age requirement for governor and lieutenant governor from age 18 to 30 failed on the floor.

“I think it’s always great to have more people engaged and involved,” House Speaker Ron Ryckman said after the initial vote. “But again, you want to make sure it’s folks that are trying not just to prove a point, but are actually trying to have a better state.”

Hunter Woodall: 785-354-1388, @HunterMw

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