Teen candidates seek the support of their peers

>Jack Burgeson (left) explains the issues that prompted him to run for governor as a 17-year-old junior at the Independent School in Wichita. His running mate and classmate, Alexander Cline, said he wants to pursue economics when he goes to college. With some 20 candidates already declaring to run for th position of Kansas governor in 2018, it’s not surprising that some might find their way to Marion County communities and schools to promote themselves and their ideas.

Jake Burgeson’s appearance Friday at Hillsboro High School was unusual in that he had a unique connection with his audience.

The candidate, and his focus audience, were all high school students.

Burgeon, a junior at the Independent School in Wichita, has declared as a Democratic candidate for governor. Appearing with him was Alexander Cline, a classmate running as his lieutenant governor.

HHS seniors were invited to participate in the campaign appearance, and about 25 were on hand to listen and ask questions.

When asked why he was running for the highest office in the state, Burgeson said, “People are not engaged in the political process. I don’t necessarily blame them.

“Politicians recently have not been worried about what people care about,” he added. “They’re going to D.C. or Topeka to get themselves enriched. A lot of them are not worried about people like us.

“So I decided I’m going to step up to the plate.”

Burgeson isn’t alone in that aspiration. At last county, four Kansas high school students have entered the political ring for 2018.

The other three have declared as Republicans: Ethan Randleas, Tyler Ruzich and Dominic Scavuzzo.

Burgeson highlighted the top three issues that motivates his campaign:

• Legalization of marijuana.

“There is nothing wrong with it, it does no cause any harm,” Burgeson said. “It is by far less dangerous than drinking.

“The other issue is that it could bring in tremendous revenue like it has for Colorado and Washington.”

• Strengthen the state’s public education system.

“We’re having a hard time finding qualified teachers,” Burgeson said. “Teachers who are ‘the best’ are moving to other states that pay more.

“We need to incentivize them and keep them in the state so everyone one can get the best possible education.”

• Raising the minimum wage in Kansas from $7.25 per hour to $12 or $15 per hour.

“It has been proven to help the economy because it gives the average worker more money to put back into the economy,” Burgeson said. “When working people get a pay raise it goes into the economy immediately.”

During the question-and-answer time, Hillsboro students asked questions that ranged from helping rural small businesses to his reasons for running.

Why is he running at age 17 instead of waiting?

Burgeson responded: “Part of it is we need to get younger candidates. It proves to the older generation that the younger generation is serious, and that we have our own issues and that we do care.”

What motivated the two to enter the political system?

“Congress was not trying to help the working people,” Burgeson said. “We need someone new. We need someone who cares. I felt I could do this and so I decided I’m going to run.”

Cline, his running mate, had similar feelings.

“I joined Jack as his running mate because I, too, have an affinity for political entrepreneurship,” he said. “I want to see more young people involved in the political process.”

Burgeson said he chose to run for governor only after he discovered that a candidate running for the state legislature has to be a registered voter, which means age 18 or older. The governorship does not require a minimum age.

With the election happening in November, the running mates would not have graduated from high school yet before their inauguration.

The two said they have actually discussed that possibility, and would choose to complete their high school requirement through the GED program.

“Despite our age, we feel the obligation to run for public office and give the people of Kansas a choice of candidates who have had no chance to be unadulterated by the political establishments of Topeka or Wash­ing­ton, D.C. If elected, we will serve only the people of Kansas,” they state on their campaign website.

Janet Whisenhunt, director of the Wiebe Media Center, facilitated the appearance.

Whisenhunt said a second political event is being planned for Feb. 14, when Burgeson the Democrat, and Ethan Randleas, a declared candidate for the Republican nomination, will debate the issues before the HHS student body.

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