- Associated Press - Saturday, October 25, 2014

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - One of North Dakota’s potential future political stars has rubbed elbows with rumored Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and has visions of starting his own version of the tea party.

Of course, Jed Thomas is still five years away from casting his first vote.

The 13-year-old eighth-grader from Fargo has impressed many - including a former congressman - with his keen interest in politics, his infectious personality and a penchant to not take himself too seriously. Jed jokes that the political fire started burning two years ago when he and a classmate argued about whether Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum should be the 2012 Republican nominee for president.

“And of course, neither one of us knew a thing about each candidate,” he chuckled.

Former U.S. Rep. Rick Berg escorted Jed to a VIP meeting earlier this month with Rubio, who came to North Dakota to speak with the Republican faithful ahead of the midterm elections. Jed was the “perfect little gentleman” who asked several good questions of the Florida senator, Berg said.

“Jed is just a bright kid and he’s fascinated with policy and process,” Berg said.

Jed also used his short amount of time with Rubio to talk football. “What stood out to me is just how casual he is and just how human he is,” Jed said.

The Sullivan Middle School student is setting his sights on being involved in politics one way or another - though holding office someday “would be awesome,” he said.

“Forming my own tea party one day, who knows? I don’t know if it will happen, but it would be pretty fun if it did,” he said of the movement, which he likes because not every local group is alike. “I really like the freedom of that.”

Pennie Fike, Jed’s debate coach, said his assessment isn’t surprising because of his ability to process complex ideas.

“It goes to show the depth of his brain already in eighth grade and his inquisitive nature. He’s absolutely right,” Fike said. “We should always as good citizens, whenever we are approaching situations and ideas, ask questions.”

Jed was the lone entrant from North Dakota in a national debate tournament last year and finished in the top eight.

“I do believe there’s a special gene in Jed Thomas; a charisma and shine that makes him quite a unique character,” Fike said. “I tend to call him ‘Mr. President’ whenever we’re working together.”

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