Now I think we can freely say that we have seen everything!
Down Trend is now reporting that one of the four Vermont Democrats trying to win the party nomination to run for governor in the fall election in the state of Vermont isn’t even old enough to vote for himself. Or even drive for that matter.
14-year-old Ethan Sonneborn of Bristol Vermont met the requirements to be on the primary ballot and is taking his place with the state’s more age-appropriate candidates on the Tuesday primary ballot. This place also includes multiple forums and debates which are scheduled.
Sonneborn said, “I think Vermonters should take me seriously because I have practical progressive ideas, and I happen to be 14, not the other way around,” Sonneborn said in a recent televised gubernatorial forum. “I think that my message and my platform transcend age.”
Here is more via Seven Days:
Ethan Sonneborn has never run for elected office before — assuming you don’t count his stint on Bristol Elementary School’s student council. He’s never been employed, other than mowing lawns and walking neighbors’ dogs. And he’s never even voted — though, in fairness, Sonneborn isn’t eligible to do so for another four years.
But none of these hurdles is preventing the Bristol teen from making a bold bid for the state’s highest elected office. Last September, the then-13-year-old middle school student announced, via press release, that he was running for governor. He’s the youngest candidate ever to do so in the history of Vermont and, likely, the country. In June, Secretary of State Jim Condos confirmed that Sonneborn had garnered enough signatures to appear on the August ballot for the Vermont Democratic Party primary.
“People may tell you that your voice doesn’t matter because you’re too young,” Sonneborn told a crowd of several thousand people from the steps of the Vermont Statehouse during the January 20 March for Our Future youth rally. “But the truth is, democracies are centered around the idea that every individual can make a difference. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, or your gender, or even your age. What matters is your willingness to speak up and share your opinions with others.”
On August 14, Sonneborn faces three older challengers in the Democratic primary: James Ehlers, Christine Hallquist and Brenda Siegel. To date, Sonneborn has participated in at least one candidates’ forum, which was held in June and sponsored by the group Rights & Democracy.
Regardless of the election’s outcome, the 14-year-old, who will be a freshman at Mt. Abraham Union High School this fall, has already left his mark on Vermont politics. Some of the state’s most seasoned politicians describe him as an articulate and intelligent young man whose grasp of the issues is advanced for his years.
“I’ve got to tell you, I really like the kid. He’s engaging, he’s smart [and] he’s curious,” said Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan, who met Sonneborn at a Vermont Democratic Party fundraiser in May. Donovan said he was impressed by the teen’s poise in “working the room” while his mother waited in the wings.
“She was letting him sink or swim on his own, doing what every candidate has to do,” Donovan added, “and I just thought it was a great lesson for this young guy in life.”
When Kesha Ram, a former member of the Vermont House and a 2016 candidate for lieutenant governor, first met Sonneborn, she admitted to behaving like “another patronizing adult” by asking him about the “learning experience” of running for office.
“He launched right into why the issues matter and what he’s focused on and how we need more diversity of voices at the table,” recalled Ram, who was herself elected to the state legislature at age 21. “He reminded me a little bit of me at that age!”
Indeed, while most of his peers are attending summer camps and going on family vacations, Sonneborn is spending his time giving interviews to reporters from CNN, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, People and Newsweek. He’s also traveling the state — with his parents as chauffeurs — talking to Vermonters about clean water, rural economic development, sensible gun-control legislation and “making sure that we have an economy that works for everyone by raising the minimum wage.”
Kids VT recently interviewed Sonneborn on the Bristol village green where, despite the 90-degree heat, he showed up wearing a sport coat, dress shirt, slacks and tie. Lest anyone suspect that Sonneborn’s parents pushed him into this campaign as a stunt, a half hour with the former legislative page — six months ago, he was delivering phone messages to lawmakers he could soon outrank — will quickly disabuse them of that notion.
“Actually, my dad has never voted,” he said. (His father, Dan Sonneborn, confirmed by email that he considers himself “politically agnostic” with a “fuzzy voting record.”) How does Sonneborn feel about his father’s lack of interest in politics?
“People like my dad are part of the reason I’m running,” he continued. “For a long time, there’s been this stigma around … politicians, that they’re all lying cheaters. I want to reach out to people like my dad who say, ‘What’s the difference? Why should I vote? What does it matter?’ Because our process is overrun with big money and politicians [who] support their donors and lobbyists over constituents.”
The reason this boy is even allowed to be on the ballot is because the Vermont State Constitution doesn’t actually have a stated age requirement for people seeking the state’s highest office. The only prerequisite is that the candidate has lived in the state for at least four years prior to the election date. That apparent mistake by the state’s founders which took place more than 225 years ago was enough to encourage the politically precocious teen to collect the signatures needed to place himself on the primary ballot. Odd how progressives do understand constitutions when it benefits them.
In an interview for the local news, the boy said he’s “always” (14 years old) been fascinated with the concept of building coalitions and touted Robert F. Kennedy as the politician who most embodies that for him. He also added that his decision to run grew out of his frustration with state and national politics. The teen learned he could, and then decided to do so as a gut reaction to clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, one year ago.
His July finance report shows Ethan has raised just over $1,700, which probably means his Parents, Grand Parents, and Uncles have all donated to his campaign. This is not even close to being enough to make him competitive in a world where the winning candidates will undoubtedly have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more, for ads, mailings, staff and other miscellaneous political expenses before the November general election.