April 2 (UPI) — A candidate seeking the Democratic nomination for Vermont governor is facing a unique set of challenges due to one simple factor — he’s only 13.
Ethan Sonneborn, a Bristol eighth grader facing two challengers for the Democratic nomination in the August primary, has made gun control a centerpiece of his campaign since he announced his political ambitions last year.
“My generation has been taking an important step in this because we’re the ones were getting shot,” Sonneborn told WPTZ-TV. “This affects us directly and people who say it can’t happen in Vermont, we came this close to it happening in Vermont. It will happen in Vermont if we don’t take action.”
Sonneborn acknowledged gun control laws could be a tough sell amid New England’s hunting culture.
“It’s a culture that I respect,” he told CNN. “But if it’s making the decision between letting my friends have a good time at a firing range and them possibly being involved in a school shooting, I’m choosing legislation to protect them from that school shooting.”
Vermont Democratic Party Executive Director Conor Casey said Sonneborn’s age gives his campaign some unique challenges.
“It’s funny, his biggest barrier is complications to being in school while simultaneously running for governor — not that I’m advocating that he drop out,” Casey said. “Also, not having a driver’s license. He’s dependent on other people for rides to statewide events he speaks at.”
Casey said he has been impressed with the young candidate.
“I’ll admit when I first heard about a 13-year-old running, I thought, ‘Is this some kid from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, spoiled?’ But that’s not the case,” Casey said. “Ethan really did embrace the gun issue early on. He’s representing younger people and he’s been a good voice for them.”
Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos said the state currently has no age-based restrictions for gubernatorial candidates, but his office will likely be discussing establishing a minimum age in the next year.