Ilan Cohen is only 17 years old. He can’t vote yet and he has never been to Kansas — but that isn’t stopping him from officially running for governor of that state.
Why is Cohen, a junior at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in suburban Washington, D.C., campaigning to become the governor of Kansas? Because he can.
One of the key reasons behind this candidacy is teen participation in political life. There are many ways of getting involved in the political scene before you’re 18, and oftentimes in ways you don’t necessarily expect. For instance, running for governor of Kansas.
Declaring his candidacy was surprisingly simple, as Cohen tells JTA:
I went on the website, entered my name, my address, phone number and email address, and then I did the same thing for my treasurer, and then maybe one more time, and then I pressed submit. I didn’t have to show ID or prove that I’m a citizen of the United States or anything. It’s a very easy process.
Why Kansas? Well, it is one of the few states that allows anyone of any age to be a candidate for governor — although there is currently a bill on the table to raise the minimum age to 18.
Cohen, however, isn’t the first teen to declare candidacy. 17-year-old Jack Bergeson was the first to register to run — he likely has an edge because he actually lives in Kansas.
As JTA points out, the state has been red since 1968 — and both these teens are trying to change that. Cohen, for his part, wants to address education inequalities and gun control; he was one of the organizers of a planned student walkout last week protesting gun violence.
While he plans to attend college when he graduates next year, he says he will assume the governorship if he is elected:
If I win governor of Kansas, we’ll see what schools there are in the area. It’ll be difficult to balance being a college student and governor. However, it is my promise to the people of the great state of Kansas that I will try my hardest.
If we lived in Kansas, we’d certainly vote for him. There’s no place like home, right?