Kansas primary winner prepares for general election, college

TONGANOXIE, Kan. - Austin Harris has a lot on his plate.

He’s preparing to move into his college dorm in a week. His class load for a major in history and minor in leadership studies at Washburn University is intense

That, and he has his general election campaign to run.

Harris, 18, was the youngest primary winner in Kansas on Tuesday, securing the Democratic nomination for the rural 42nd House District with 302 votes. He’d be the youngest member of the Kansas House of Representatives in decades with an upset win over incumbent Connie O’Brien in November.

“It was something I've always wanted to do, something that's always been a dream of mine from a very young age to get into politics and leadership,” Harris explained in his kitchen-cum-campaign headquarters. “I decided to run because I think the district isn't being represented as well as it could be.”

The 18-year-old has attempted to make his age an asset, focusing his campaign on education reform.

“We can look at charts and books. We can look at numbers on pages, but I was there, sitting in the classroom with teachers, administrators and students and I know what's happening,” Harris said. “No one else running, no one else in the government right now has that perspective.”

When asked for comment about her opponent this fall, O'Brien offered only congratulations on his primary victory.

Still, his age shows itself in interesting ways. His only other campaign staffer is a fellow recent high school grad, and his campaign bookshelf is a mix of political biographies and Harry Potter novels. 

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