Kansas is electing a new governor in 2018, and although the gubernatorial race is in its very early stages, a quirk of state law has led to an otherwise quiet election process drawing the eyes of the nation.
Kansas has no age restrictions for its gubernatorial candidates. As a result, four teenagers have decided to join the fray. 16-year-old Jack Bergeson was the first to toss his hat in the ring. He’s running as a Democrat. After Bergeson came Tyler Ruzich, Ethan Randleas, and Dominic Scavuzzo — each 17 years old, and each running on the Republican side.
The Daily Wire spoke with all four candidates, and (for the most part) asked them all the same set of questions. Any deviations come as a result of the way in which the conversation was moving with the particular candidate.
Q: Why did you decide to run?
RANDLEAS: I think that the state is in a dismal situation, and both parties are getting it wrong.
SCAVUZZO: I’ve been interested in politics my whole life; I began watching CNN at a young age. I wanted to be caught up on national, state, and local politics. Over the past year, I’ve really strengthened my political views. I went to the inauguration of our last president in January with a school group. Over the summer, I went to a Kansas Boy’s State in Manhattan, Kansas, and I met guys from all over the state. I heard all their concerns, and it appeared that they felt like they couldn’t be heard in our current government. So I thought if we had a youthful voice, that could really help our government’s transparency.
BERGESON: I’ve always been interested in politics. So many young people are apathetic, they don’t care. I honestly understand it because most politicians don’t seem to care about what matters to younger people, so what’s the point? I understand it. So I think we have to offer a candidate that will appeal to everyone, and if you do that, you will have a much higher interest from everyone, including younger people.
RUZICH: I will say that a big part of why I ran is the idea that a good, stable democracy needs to have a process that invites all people that are legally allowed to vote — that definitely involves younger people. Younger people bring such a new set of ideas and principles that truly reflect what tomorrow’s leaders bring to the table. I’ve always found that it’s good for any democracy or electoral process to really invite young people to participate. I’ve really felt that our state has kind of neglected young people and that there really wasn’t any enthusiasm about the 2018 gubernatorial race up until Jack and I started coming to the forefront. I think I can make a big change in the electoral system in the state of Kansas.
Q: What is your platform?
RANDLEAS: My general platform is that the government has become too intrusive into people’s lives, that education funding has become ridiculously inefficient, and that the government is now in the business of regulating people instead of protecting natural rights. [Regarding the Second Amendment], I believe that any law abiding citizen should be allowed to own any amount of guns they so choose. I don’t think you can legislate evil. I think that evil people will do evil things regardless of the tools they have available.
SCAVUZZO: Education is obviously an issue in Kansas right now that everyone’s concerned about. The problem isn’t necessarily that we need to raise taxes, I think we just need to figure out how to disperse the money better, and fix our school formula to see how the districts get money, and make sure that each student is adequately funded.
This goes into the idea of transparency that I would like to spread — I saw a bill offered by a representative from a city in Kansas which stated that we put a bill up 24 hours before we vote on it (48 hours if it’s a budget bill) to let the people know what’s going on, so they can have their say and contact their representatives.
BERGESON: I’m running on a lot of Bernie Sanders’ campaign issues — higher minimum wage. Although I’m in favor of his health care plan, I don’t think it would work just at the state level — I think we need a national infrastructure for that. I’m campaigning on a temporary compromise plan that will work until there is national health care reform. I’m also for expanding public transportation and rail. I’m also campaigning on an increase in teacher pay. Our education system is dismal, and I think that could be a fix in the short term.
Even if I lose, I still think the four of us have the chance to drastically change the way younger people view politics in the future.
RUZICH: Our state Republican Party has really been divided between sort of the ultra conservative wing and the moderate wing. I believe in free press, and free speech on our state’s public colleges — that really needs to be protected. I feel that the essence of the First Amendment and its purpose is really going down hill, especially on college campuses. The First Amendment needs to be protected.
I do believe in reducing the state’s sales tax, and another alternative is having a small reduction of the state’s corporate income tax. I believe small businesses, S-Corps, should be exempt from that tax. Nothing too much because when we gutted it, that was our state’s primary source of revenue and how we funded public education and state Medicaid. We need to find a realistic way to raise revenue, and that’s what I plan to do. Gaining the revenue with the corporate tax rate, we’ll fund this properly, and hopefully, once we get our budget balanced, we should address cutting the state sales tax, which is one of the highest in the nation if you combine it with county taxes.
Overall, that principle of fiscal responsibility, being a moderate, and just trying to not be too far to the Left of too far to the Right, but trying to bring all sides and meet in the middle. I think that’s what this country and state needs.
Q: Is this a serious run for governor, or is this an attempt to raise political awareness among young people? If you win, are you ready to govern?
RANDLEAS: We ran because we thought we could win. It was a very serious thing. It stemmed from the others running, but we believe that we can win.
BERGESON: In order to run, you have to be able to say "Yes" to that question. Otherwise, it’s not worth running. What matters is what you want to get done. People say experience is important, and yes, there is validity to that. But also, I think it’s far more about what you want to get done. Do you care about people? Are you doing this for the right reasons? And for me, I have to check those boxes. For the little stuff, where I’m a little shaky or I may not understand the intricacies of how to run the state government, I’m sure there are far more experienced people that I would seek out to help me with the day-to-day stuff. I think I would be ready.
SCAVUZZO: I’m definitely playing to win. You know, the odds are definitely stacked against me because I’m a 17-year-old. A good goal for this would be to get younger people interested and involved in Kansas politics. I’m 100% ready to govern.
RUZICH: I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t think I could win. I know it’s a long shot, but I bring a whole lot of ambition and energy to this race I feel is not present in the other campaigns, and where there’s a will, there’s a way. I’m not going to be alone in this; it’s not just a one-man job. You have a running mate, there are department heads, you have the state legislature you can refer to and consult with. Just because I don’t have the resume of people who came before me doesn’t mean that I can’t bring forward better results. I believe in going back to the basics of good government, which I believe makes me ready to govern.
Q: How did your parents react to your candidacy?
RANDLEAS: They thought it was awesome; they were really supportive.
BERGESON: You know, they were skeptical at the very beginning, but pretty soon, it was very supportive, very interested.
SCAVUZZO: My mom’s initial reaction was kind of just like: "Are you crazy?" Then she heard what I had to say, and she understood. My dad’s been very supportive.
RUZICH: They were 100% supportive of it. They really did enjoy seeing me acting upon my love for politics and government, and really taking initiative. Even though I have different views from them on certain things, they were always encouraging me to develop my own views.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say to readers and Kansas voters that we may not have covered?
RANDLEAS: I think that I truly stand for personal liberties and limited government. If you want a candidate that’s consistent and sticks to those principles, I am that one.
BERGESON: I don’t think so, no.
SCAVUZZO: I think our state has a lot of potential. We have agriculture and oil in the west, aerospace industry in the south, and an economic engine in eastern Kansas. I think if we can get all of that meshed together, unified, Kansas can become a very vibrant and powerful state.
RUZICH: I’ve always considers myself to be a Republican for the next generation. What I truly do believe in is not an agenda that is far to the Right or far to the Left, but an agenda that is going to move the state forward, and getting back to the basics of good government, and protecting civil liberties.
Q: What would you say to those dismissing your candidacy as a young person?
BERGESON: You know, I can’t say it shocks me. I was expecting it. At the same time, I think it proves that the system is reluctant to change. For some of those people, I think it’s less about the experience and more about whether or not you have orthodox political beliefs.
Q: What do you think about your state’s current governor, Sam Brownback?
RUZICH: I think our current governor, Sam Brownback, shows that a good resume doesn’t mean good results. He really fits all the [criteria] of someone who would be qualified to govern this state, but that doesn’t mean he came up with the promised results. The drastic tax cuts were supposed to bring all this economic growth and, as a conservative, I do believe in overall lower taxation, and fiscal responsibility, but I don’t believe that fiscal responsibility has to mean fiscal recklessness. Not only did we cut taxes, we also just made one of the biggest cuts to public education and our state Medicaid system.
Q: What are your thoughts on President Trump?
RANDLEAS: You’ve got to take everything he does one by one. He’s not a conservative, and he’s not really a Republican all the time. He flip flops on a lot of things, but I think his deregulation efforts are awesome; I think his policy of not forcing companies to carry insurance plans with birth control provided is awesome because that’s a liberty issue. Then again, I don’t like that he worked directly with Pelosi and Schumer on the budget. It’s really hit and miss. His infrastructure spending proposal is ridiculous. It’s Keynesian economic theory that’s been proven not to work.
I’d like to thank Mr. Bergeson, Mr. Scavuzzo, Mr. Randleas, and Mr. Ruzich for participating in this interview. The 2018 gubernatorial race in the state of Kansas may be one for the ages. Watch for further coverage as the election process develops.
Follow Jack Bergeson on Twitter @VoteBergeson18
Follow Dominic Scavuzzo on Twitter @ScavuzzoForGov
Follow Ethan Randleas on Twitter @Randleas4Gov
Tyler Ruzich has yet to create an official Twitter handle.