19-Year-Old Berkeley Student Joins Race for Governor

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Most college sophomores spend their Saturdays relaxing. But UC Berkeley sophomore Elizabeth Swaney spent her weekend collecting last-minute signatures to submit to the state registrar before Saturday's 5 p.m. deadline to run for California governor.

At 19, Swaney just barely makes the state's lone requirement to run for governor-being a registered voter.

Swaney joins such names as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gary Coleman and Larry Flynt on California's Oct. 7 recall ballot.

About half of the 195 gubernatorial candidates, including Swaney, are waiting for final verification. The list of all certified candidates will be released tomorrow, according to the state registrar.

Swaney says that she is running to gain campaigning experience, but does not realistically expect to win.

"I could take a political science class on learning how to campaign or do it in real life, and the second option is much better," Swaney said.

After graduating, Swaney, an Oakland native, plans to run for public office in the Bay Area.

Her two main campaign issues are ameliorating the state's budget deficit and promoting alternative energy use.

She proposed a salary cap on state officials' salaries as a partial solution to the budget deficit. On her Web site, she wrote "Why do salaries keep increasing? Something is wrong."

Swaney, one of 44 candidates running under the Independent party, collected most of the 65 signatures required to file for candidacy from UC Berkeley students, particularly those outside the Recreational Sports Facility.

It was more difficult for Swaney to convince middle-aged people to sign her petition.

"They don't think people younger than them should control them," Swaney said.

Another requirement she had to overcome was the $3,500 filing fee, half of which her parents are paying because they are "really excited" about her campaign, she said.

Swaney is not the only gubernatorial candidate affiliated with UC Berkeley. Georgy Russell, a 26-year-old UC Berkeley alumna who majored in computer science, announced she was running last month.

UC Berkeley political science and public policy Professor Henry Brady said that Swaney's campaigning is "in some ways a laudable goal."

She is, however, adding to what he believes is a "ridiculously high number" of gubernatorial candidates.

The number of candidates could result in physical complications for voters, whether they use punch cards or optical scans.

Punch-card booklets could be up to 20 pages long, and optical scan papers would have huge running lists, complicating and confusing the voter, Brady said.

In addition, the fact that relatively politically inexperienced people can be approved to run the state has been an issue.

"I'm not sure if this a bit of an affront to democracy or democracy run completely amok," Brady said.

Swaney's political leadership experiences are limited to her time as a high-school student, though she has been active in the community by tutoring Spanish-speaking children.

She was also sports editor of the student newspaper at Macalester College in Minnesota, where she was enrolled in her freshman year.

If she does win, Swaney said she will drop out of school.

"I'll probably hold off until the remainder of my term," she said. "After that I won't run again."

But Swaney said if she has another opportunity to get on the ballot for another election, she will take it.


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