By John Celock
Kansas is one step closer to requiring a minimum age to run for governor with lawmakers voting Wednesday to send a bill to Gov. Jeff Colyer (R).
The state House of Representatives voted 70-52 Wednesday to pass a bill that would set a minimum age of 25 to run for governor and lieutenant governor along with a minimum age of 18, and a residency requirement, to seek the other statewide offices. The bill comes after several teenagers have announced candidacies for governor and secretary of state this year, along with an out of state resident announcing for governor.
“This needs to get fixed as soon as possible,” Elections Committee Vice Chairman Blake Carpenter (R-Derby) said, noting that a New York City resident recently announced his bid for governor.
The bill previously passed the state Senate 36-4.
The bill would not preclude any of the teenagers or out of state residents currently seeking statewide office from running this year. The requirement would take effect on January 1 of next year.
Under the terms of the bill, all candidates for governor and lieutenant governor would need to be 25 years old and qualified electors in the state. Candidates for secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer and insurance commissioner would need to be qualified electors, setting a minimum age for the offices at 18. The bill also requires that the attorney general be a licensed attorney in the state, a common requirement around the country.
Kansas is one of two states without a minimum age to seek the governorship, the other being Vermont. After the first teenager announced for the governorship in Kansas this year, a 13-year-old middle school student in Vermont announced his candidacy for governor in that state.
The bill was part of a conference committee report that also included new rules relating to absentee voting signature requirements for the disabled and election audits. Elections Committee Ranking Minority Member Vic Miller (D-Topeka) said that while he agreed with the other parts of the bill he took issue with the age minimum, saying that it would discourage young people from running for office, a commentary that Rep. Brandon Whipple (D-Wichita) echoed on social media following the vote.
Rep. Brenda Landwehr (R-Wichita) announced her opposition to the bill noting that she was not in favor of the requirement of a law license to serve as attorney general. She said that the attorney general’s job is to be the state’s chief law enforcement officer and that a law license requirement would potentially prohibit a law enforcement officer from running for attorney general.
Landwehr cited former Attorney General Vern Miller (D), a University of Oklahoma Law School graduate, who won the job in 1970 despite not having tried a case in court. Landwehr noted that Miller’s career had been centered in law enforcement, including two terms as Sedgwick County sheriff and prior service as a deputy sheriff and the county marshal. Miller had been elected on a platform of vowing prosecution of the state’s drug laws.
Miller left the attorney general’s office in 1974 to unsuccessfully seek the governorship and later practiced law in Wichita and served as the Sedgwick County district attorney.
The bill had been headed to defeat in the House prior to Carpenter’s speech, which centered on New York resident Andy Maskin’s recent decision to enter the gubernatorial race. Maskin said that he does not intend to move to Kansas during the campaign but has planned a campaign stop in Topeka. Maskin told the Topeka Capitol Journal that his campaign has largely involved calling and sending postcards to residents of Greeley County, which he said he picked because it was named after the late New York City journalist Horace Greeley.