Vermont doesn't have an age requirement for gubernatorial candidates, only a residency requirement.— Lauren Katz (@Laur_Katz) August 9, 2018
Ethan Sonneborn, who has lived in Bristol for 14 years — his entire life — makes the cut. https://t.co/2RrJ1Al3n8
An unlikely candidate vying to become Vermont’s next governor could face many challenges if he wins, including being able to drive himself to Montpelier.
That’s because Ethan Sonneborn, from Bristol, Vermont, doesn’t even have his driver’s license. The candidate, running as a Democrat against three others in a primary race set for Tuesday, is only 14 years old.
But Sonneborn said that age shouldn’t be a factor in the race.
“I think Vermonters should take me seriously because I have practical progressive ideas, and I happen to be 14, not the other way around,” he said. “I think that my message and my platform transcend age.”
Those are wise words indeed from a teenager who will undoubtedly remain in politics for years after his first race.
Sonneborn qualified for the ballot after collecting the necessary number of signatures from signers across the state. Vermont’s Constitution does not provide an age requirement for candidates seeking to become the governor — individuals must only have lived in the state for four years prior to running for office.
Sonneborn said that his inspiration to run came after the horrendous events in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which white supremacists violently engaged counter-protesters last August, resulting in numerous injuries and the death of one activist, Heather Heyer.
“I had a culmination of frustrations with politics as usual,” Sonneborn explained in an interview last month. “And it kind of — it reached a boiling point after Charlottesville when I realized that my generation could be doing so much better.”
If he wins the primary on Tuesday, Sonneborn’s possible Republican opponent may make age an issue in the race. Incumbent Republican Gov. Phil Scott, himself facing a primary challenge, said he thinks maturity should play a role in who becomes the head of the executive branch in Vermont.
“I think you should at least be able to get your driver's license at the time that you become governor,” Scott said.
Sonneborn is not polling higher than other Democrats in the race, and he raised less than $2,000 for his campaign. Still, he measures success in multiple ways — including garnering more attention to the elections themselves.
“I think if I can get one person who wasn't involved in the political process before involved now, then my campaign will have been a success,” he said.
Although he’s a long shot to win, Sonneborn should be commended for leading the way for his peers. Young people should never be discouraged from getting involved in politics and, as Sonneborn demonstrates, their opinions should not be discounted either.
Political issues affect all of our lives in different ways. Young people stepping up and recognizing that the issues of our time don’t solely affect their parents but themselves as well, should be a welcomed trend, and hopefully one that continues beyond Sonneborn’s run for governor.
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