Guest Commentary

Ideas, not age, are any Kansas gubernatorial candidate’s most important assets

Tyler Ruzich, Republican candidate for Kansas governor.
Tyler Ruzich, Republican candidate for Kansas governor. File photo

“Dagnabbit, you’re just a kid!” It’s a common response I hear from people who are quick to point out the obvious age gap between me and the “experienced” and “more qualified” candidates for Kansas governor. Yet, at the same time, they raise interesting points: Why should a teen who isn’t even old enough to buy cigarettes be our governor? Or even be allowed to run? Do we need age limits?

These are valid questions that ought to be answered, especially when there are now eight teenagers (including me) running for governor. And I count myself among those asking the questions now.

With the Parkland shooting fresh in our minds, along with the momentum of the youth movement that is everywhere in our current political arena, more than ever we now need the voice of youth to address these issues and provide a perspective that many do not consider. Thus, I ought to provide my own answers to these questions, while also justifying my campaign for governor.

With that in mind, let’s answer the first question: Why should someone my age be governor of the state of Kansas? While taking the office would be a daunting task for just about anyone — no matter his or her political experience — we have seen with the Sam Brownback/Jeff Colyer administration that simply having a good resume does not produce good results.

Former Gov. Sam Brownback had years of experience in the U.S. Senate, and he had a strong lieutenant governor to back him up. Needless to say, that background didn’t create the promised results. Schools (like my own) were underfunded. KanCare’s funding was slashed. The Ogallala Aquifer is accelerating toward depletion, and Kansas has become one of the most secretive states in the nation.

So there is a question we should all be asking ourselves: What is our state government hiding from us?

In my view, a solution to these problems can be found in a teen governor — someone like me. I have been educated in the public school system my whole life, and I have lived an American success story. My family had very little, and we were able to bring ourselves up to a life of success. And why would special interest groups invest thousands of dollars into a teen’s campaign?

While I would expect to rely heavily on the expertise of governor’s aides and state legislators to put our ideas into the language of lawmaking, a teen governor would create a major shakeup in Topeka and provide fresh ideas to an out-of-touch state government.

Finally, should someone my age even be allowed to run? Are age limits the solution? One recent news story called my run a “novelty” and suggested it is practically a mockery of the gubernatorial campaign.

Yet like so many other articles and statements made during my run, this dismissal seems to neglect an overall respect for the basic democratic right of choice. For if the United States and the state of Kansas in particular are to even be considered a democracy, then why must we restrict the age of candidates who run for office?

If my ideas resonate with voters the most, why should how old I am get in the way of allowing voters to cast their vote for me? Why must we use age restrictions as a way to undermine the legitimacy of our democratic system? Let the voters decide.

It’s all about ideas and perspectives that you can provide the voters on Election Day. Any candidate should be willing to defend his or her ideas and debate any opponent, anytime and anywhere.

So if Kris Kobach and Colyer are really the “qualified candidates,” why don’t they debate me on the issues? It would be the only way to settle the discussion about whether someone like me can govern.

Let’s see if the adults running in the election are willing to defend their ideas against their opponents’. Let’s not restrict the choices voters can make, but rather expand those choices while ensuring that Kansans can make an educated decision.

Youth has stepped up to the plate. How about the adults?

Tyler Ruzich is a Republican candidate for Kansas governor.