Teens Run For Kansas Governor
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Democrat Jack Bergeson is not your typical gubernatorial candidate. In fact, at 17 years old, he can't even vote yet. But he's not the only one. Bergeson is part of a field of six candidates under the age of 18 running for governor in Kansas. And he joins me now from Wichita. Welcome.
JACK BERGESON: It's great to be on the show, Lulu.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So tell me - when did you realize that there's a loophole in the law that meant you could run for governor?
BERGESON: Oh I think it was about late February, early March of 2016 - so a very long time ago. And I kind of decided that - you know, I saw a lot of issues with empathy and also that the party was not - the Democratic Party was not adjusting a lot of issues that I feel are pertinent to our nation and our state right now.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And so you decided, OK, I can do a better job. I can run for governor. What's your platform?
BERGESON: You know, it's - my platform is somewhat modeled on the Bernie Sanders platform. It's, you know, raising the minimum wage. One of my big things that I'm pushing is legalization of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes. I feel not only is it, you know, civil rights issue. I also believe it could be a great source of income for the state, especially since, you know, we're having our budget issues, and we need a way to fund education. I've proposed using the revenue from that to fund education.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: How has the Democratic Party been treating your candidacy?
BERGESON: Quite well, actually. They've been supportive from day one. They've - you know, local parties have invited me to their forums and events. And I've taken the invitation whenever I can. And the state party has invited me to the statewide convention. And so I think the Democratic Party has been a great help to me.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Have you always been interested in politics.
BERGESON: You know, as long as I can remember, yes. I remember the first election I remember anything about was 2008. But the first election I really followed seriously was 2012. And I remember being quite sucked up into that.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Representative Blake Carpenter of the Kansas legislature has introduced a bill that would require candidates for governor to be at least 18 years old. It wouldn't take effect until after this election is over. But how do you feel about that bill?
BERGESON: I'm against the bill because I believe it's reactionary. I am a supporter of at least looking into lowering the voting age to 16 because, I mean, a lot of people at 16 - they have jobs. They're driving. They're in the workforce. I mean, they're being affected by school policy. You know, I think we should look into giving people that are 16 the right to vote. And if a lot of people that are activists and into politics, I believe - you know, why shouldn't they be able to vote?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And if you don't win, what do you plan to do?
BERGESON: You know, of course, I do plan to go on to college. Who knows? I haven't decided where yet. But, you know, also, I do plan to, you know, stay involved. I plan to be, you know, involved in the Kansas Democratic Party and continue to make sure young people know that politics does have an impact on them and that there is a reason for them to get involved and for them to care. And I believe if I intend to do that, my goal will continue to live on.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What's your slogan?
BERGESON: I've been using feel the Berg quite a bit - you know, taking on the Bernie Sanders slogan.
BERGESON: Also, on a lot of my bumper stickers and T-shirts shirts that we have a few of, it says real change right now. So, you know, nothing is the formal slogan. But we just go with what people are saying.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) Jack Bergeson, Democratic candidate for governor of Kansas, thank you very much.
BERGESON: It was great. Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.