- Associated Press - Saturday, January 31, 2015

MISHAWAKA, Ind. (AP) - When the fall soccer season had passed, 17-year-old Ethan Hunt let the glory of a winning season settle, along with his first and only year in soccer, as goalie.

Then he prayed.

The Marian High School senior pondered the career he wanted in politics and decided it was time to start now.

Which led him Friday to the clerk’s office in the St. Joseph County Courthouse, where he filed his candidacy to run for election as a Republican in Mishawaka’s 6th District.

He turns 18 on April 10, just old enough to vote in the primary election on May 5. There’s no age requirement for those who take elected office, but they must be registered voters. Yes, Hunt says, he’s already registered to vote, as allowed by law, since he’ll be of age to vote by Election Day.

“Hopefully constituents look at the content of my character rather than my age,” he told the South Bend Tribune (https://bit.ly/1DhJRrq), bright eyed and eager for a positive campaign.

“I have no problem with someone that young running,” said Ron Banicki, the 51-year-old Democrat who currently holds the 6th District council seat and who has already filed to run for his fourth term. “Of course, life experience is a whole different ball of wax. Lots of us in our 30s, 40s and 50s would say, ‘I wish I knew then what I know now.’ “

Hunt took a front-row seat to watch Mayor Dave Wood announce his candidacy Thursday at the city’s GOP headquarters. Dave Schmidt stood close behind, a Republican who’d run unsuccessfully for the same 6th District seat in 2007 and now serves on the Penn Township board.

“I wouldn’t bet against him,” says Dave Schmidt, an associate professor of history at Bethel College. “I think he’s going to work to win.”

Schmidt will launch a new, 35-credit-hour major at Bethel this fall in “applied politics” - that is, how to run for and be an elected official - and Hunt is among the seven students who’ve said they’ll enroll. With several evening classes, Schmidt hopes that current politicians also take a course or two.

Asked about Robert’s Rules of Order, the guidelines on conducting a formal meeting, Hunt says he’s never heard of it. Not that he hasn’t observed it. Hunt says he’s been attending city council meetings since November to learn how the council works.

Other than home room representative, Hunt says he hasn’t run for student government at Marian, feeling it was more of a popularity race.

But he relished his time as eighth-grade vice president at John Young Middle School, proudly adding, “I think one of our great accomplishments was getting chocolate milk back on the menu.”

He’s also worked the polls in local elections. And in an internship at U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski’s Mishawaka office in the summer of 2013, Hunt says he worked the front desk, answering the phone, filing papers and doing research.

He joined the local Chamber of Commerce’s South Bend/Mishawaka Youth Leadership Program, where fellow students chose him to speak at their graduation.

Pretty soon, he says the student teaching that he does in history and social studies at John Young, for college credit, will kick up to two hours a day.

Since his time at Beiger Elementary School, he’s played basketball, tennis, cross country, track and soccer. And even though he was recruited to play soccer for Bethel, he says he’s decided against playing there because of the time commitment.

“If I’m going into politics, I want to know that I’m giving 100 percent to my district,” he says.

He’d like to move into a dorm room on campus, which is just outside of the 6th District. City council members need to live in the districts they represent. A GOP official has told Hunt that the Bethel dorm wouldn’t matter - that Hunt could still claim the house where he and his mother have lived for the past three years, which is a one-mile drive from the college gate and a half mile inside the 6th District’s southern boundary.

If it’s an issue, Hunt said, he’ll gladly stay at home: “Politics is a priority to me.”

His mother admits to nerves.

“I don’t want him to be let down and lose his passion,” says Allison Rowe, who came with him as he filed Friday. “We all have strong opinions (within the family). It surprised me that he wanted to take it to this level.”

Hunt says he’s ready for the sober reality, that only one person can win. He’s fired up about knocking on doors to talk with constituents when the weather warms up.

“I want to take it one step at a time,” he says of the distant future in his political career. “My goal would be to go as far as I can.”

___

Information from: South Bend Tribune, https://www.southbendtribune.com

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