Ethan Sonneborn is a 13-year-old running for governor of Vermont, one of just two states with no minimum age requirement for the office.
A Sonneborn tells PEOPLE, saying that despite President Donald Trump being the oldest person elected to the U.S. Presidency, “He tweets like a kindergartener.”
Sonneborn is dismayed not only by what he sees as Trump’s troubling decisions and juvenile moments but also by the president’s response after a counterprotester was killed during the August white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia — which is what cemented Sonneborn’s decision to seek office. “It was the real ‘I have to do this’ moment,” he says. “I saw a woman die and I saw the president of the United States refuse to unequivocally condemn the people who killed her.”
The eighth grader’s candidacy is also about overcoming age discrimination, which he sees as a barrier to equality, and he says his quest for the top state spot is no joke. “I think the best way to engage young people in the process is to win,” he says.
Sonneborn, who lives in Bristol, Vermont, with his parents and younger sister, Julia, 11, is seeking the Democratic nomination. If he wins the primary, he would face off against first-term Republican Gov. Phil Scott, 59. The incumbent governor is welcoming the competition.
“This young Vermonter clearly has an interest in service and anyone putting ideas forward with the goal of making Vermont a better place is appreciated here,” Scott’s spokeswoman, Rebecca Kelley, tells PEOPLE. “As we work to keep and attract more young professionals and job creators, we appreciate every young person who is engaged and invested in our state.”
Sonneborn’s positions include support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, reproductive and LGBTQ rights, and improving access to health care.
When he’s not campaigning on those and other issues, Sonneborn is busy with his studies, participating in school activities and making time to go fishing. He’s considering joining the junior high basketball team.