One of the candidates in Vermont’s Democratic primary for governor is too young to vote — even too young to get his learner’s permit.
Ethan Sonneborn, 14, is on the ballot Tuesday, just a few weeks before he is set to begin his freshman year of high school.
“Just about everywhere I go people think what we’re doing is important,” he told ABC News. “We need to have leadership that’s listening to Vermonters instead of having leadership that makes Vermonters listen.”
Sonneborn’s primary comes among a surge in youth participation in politics. Last week, a group of teenagers ran in the Republican and Democratic gubernatorial primaries in Kansas.
Vermont has no minimum age requirement to run for governor; a candidate only has to have lived in the state for four years. Vermont’s secretary of state office said that no other minor in recent history has run for governor.
Sonneborn is running on a progressive platform, supporting a carbon tax, a higher minimum wage and a worker’s bill of rights. On his campaign website, he calls himself a “proud backer” of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare-for-All” legislation.
The 14-year-old has been involved interested in politics for as long as he can remember, recently serving as a legislative page in Vermont’s legislature.
“I’ve been an activist pretty much my whole life,” he said. “I’ve been active in my community on issues that I’ve cared about.”
Sonneborn has been traveling the state, talking to Vermonters about the issues. He said that “almost nobody” in the state has told him he’s too young to run for governor, although there have been a few internet hecklers.
Sarah Anders, a spokeswoman for James Ehlers, another Democratic candidate for governor, said that Ehlers “admires Ethan’s engagement on the issues and his activism as a young person and feels that Ethan has elevated the discourse throughout the course of the gubernatorial primary.”
His parents haven’t had a huge influence on his campaign, which has been mostly self-driven. While they knew their son was interested in running for governor, they didn’t know when he announced he was running.
Kate LaRose, a candidate for the Vermont House of Representatives, said she was honored to have Sonneborn’s endorsement.
“Ethan’s campaign and the issues he champions provide a needed response in this atmosphere—revival, interest, and youth engagement, while building our the bench strength of our democracy for years to come,” she told ABC News in a statement. “I’ve no doubt he’ll be the youngest governor of Vermont someday.”