13-Year-Old Plans Run for VT Governor

Ethan Sonneborn is an eighth grader in Bristol

A student too young to vote or even drive is promising to run for governor of Vermont in 2018.

“This is a tough fight,” acknowledged Ethan Sonneborn, 13, of Bristol.

Sonneborn is an eighth grader at Mt. Abraham Union Middle School.

He said he has requested all the documentation he’ll need to seek the office of Vermont governor as a Democrat, aiming to unseat first-term Republican Governor Phil Scott in 2018.

“I always knew I wanted to run for public office,” Sonneborn told necn Monday. “I think Vermonters are looking for a fresh vision.”

The Constitution of the State of Vermont does not specify a minimum age for a gubernatorial candidate, but does say a person seeking the office must have lived in the state for four years prior to Election Day. Sonneborn will have done that several times over, he noted.

Sonneborn, who called himself a history buff since age 5, said he admires political leaders including Robert F. Kennedy, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean.

He told necn his agenda is one of “practical progressivism,” focusing on climate change, improving access to quality health care, and doing more to prevent gun violence.

“My generation is the one that will inherit this state and this country and this planet,” Sonneborn said.

Asked if he worries if this effort will mean he could miss out on getting to be a normal kid, Sonneborn responded, “I don’t. Running for public office as a kid is kind of my dream childhood.”

Faisal Gill, who chairs the Vermont Democratic Party, said he plans to invite the student to talk to the state committee about his platform.

“We actually are going to treat him like a regular candidate,” Gill said. “He deserves to be treated seriously and I’m certainly going to do that. I think what he’s doing is a fantastic thing, and hopefully, it’ll encourage other kids his age to get involved.”

The gubernatorial hopeful said still needs to fill out paperwork, as well as secure 500 signatures in support of his candidacy.

Ethan Sonneborn does expect challenges in next August’s primary, but win or lose, he said he expects to stay active in politics.

“The first year I’ll be eligible to run for president will be 2040,” Sonneborn said. “I’ll be 36.”

James Ehlers, an advocate for clean water who works as the executive director of Lake Champlain International in Colchester, has already said he plans to seek the office of Vermont governor, also as a Democrat.

Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, is expected to seek re-election in 2018, though he has not formally launched that campaign since he is only nine months into his first two-year term.

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