TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas officials want to put the brakes on out-of-state gubernatorial candidates after 10 people living outside the state's borders took initial steps to run.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced Tuesday that he's filed a lawsuit as part of an effort to keep non-residents out of the race, The Kansas City Star reports. He said in a statement that it appears lawmakers always intended candidates for Kansas governor to reside in the state and is asking the court to interpret Kansas law, which makes no express statement about candidates' age or residency.
News coverage about the lack of requirements has led to a slew of teenagers and non-Kansans forming campaign committees for a gubernatorial run. A man even tried, and failed, to get his dog on the ballot.
Among the out-of-state candidates is Ilan Cohen, a 17-year-old high school student from Bethesda, Maryland, who would see his candidacy in trouble if Schmidt's lawsuit prevails.
"I think it's an unnecessary thing to be doing," he said. "I already trust the people of Kansas to make the right decision."
The lawsuit lists Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the state's top election official and a Republican running for governor this year, as the defendant. Schmidt also is a Republican. Would-be governors have until June 1 to make their candidacies official by paying a $2,207 filing fee or submitting a nominating petition containing several thousand signatures and $670.
Kobach says none of the out-of-state candidates have taken either of those steps so far. "At that point, if it occurs, the question of ballot access will need to be answered," Kobach said.
Schmidt's office said the Kansas teenagers running for governor wouldn't be affected by the lawsuit, although pending legislation would keep them out of the race.
The Kansas House passed a bill earlier this year that would keep minor teenagers from becoming governor, saying that candidates had to at least be 18 and a Kansas resident. An amended version of the legislation passed by the Senate also says that candidates must be a qualified Kansas elector and also raised the age limit to 30. A finalized bill has yet to make it to Gov. Jeff Colyer's desk.