Elijah Manley, Teenaged Presidential Candidate From Fort Lauderdale, Will Campaign in New Hampshire

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Elijah Manley says it’s hard to be a kid presidential candidate. Not only does he lack the financial backing available to more prominent candidates, the 16-year-old Fort Lauderdale High junior says he also has to deal with people constantly reminding him that the constitution dictates that he has to be 35 to be inaugurated.

“When they say that, I just turn to them and say, ‘Well, I’m doing it,'” Manley says. “I hear that a lot, and still, people keep bringing up my age. It’s the stupidest thing I ever heard.”

At first, Manley expected to be able to campaign only locally. But he says that after a New Times article came out earlier this month, he’s received an outpouring of support from Manley supporters across the country. Now, after a small influx of campaign contributions, he plans to travel to Wisconsin next month for the Socialist Party’s national convention and then, in November, to New Hampshire to try to gather 3,000 signatures and land on the ballot there too.

"I'm glad that I'm going to Milwaukee and that I'll meet with other Black Lives Matter activists. It seems like a fun place from television, and I'm happy to travel outside the state of Florida," Manley says. "And New Hampshire will be a beautiful trip too, I'm sure." 

Manley got the idea to run for president in May, after he grew frustrated with the two-party system and all the big-name candidates. He spoke to youth rights advocates who assured him that legally he could run for president but told him he might run into problems if he were to be elected. He decided to run anyway and filed with the Federal Election Commission in June.

He identifies as an independent but says if he had to label his political leanings, he’d call himself a Democratic socialist. He’s one of seven candidates slated to speak and debate at Socialist Party USA’s national convention in Milwaukee from October 16 to 18. “I have to go to this. If I do, I might actually win it, not only as a young candidate, but to be nominated by a political party — a few thousand people will then vote for me,” he exclaims.

He says his lodging in Milwaukee has been taken care of, but he’s trying to gather enough money for a plane ticket. “The cheapest flight on Delta is $255. I’m going to try to book over the weekend,” he says.

Manley also says he has two ardent supporters in New Hampshire. There is one who identifies with Manley’s platform and another who is a youth rights supporter. Manley says they think he can get on the ballot in New Hampshire if he gets 3,000 signatures. They’re pooling together enough money to fly him to New Hampshire for a few days in November to gather the signatures and host campaign events.

Of course, this will happen in the middle of Manley’s fall semester at school. Manley stresses that he will miss only one or two days, since the events take place on the weekend. “It’s hard to balance both — going to school and campaigning. It hasn’t affected my grades or anything,” he points out.

Besides, going to school and speaking to other students is what motivates him to keep going. He says one day in his advanced psychology class he overheard a group of students gossiping that a student at their school was running for president. Manley says he just smiled to himself until he heard one student say that he hoped he’d lower college tuition prices. Manley says he turned around and said: “I can do that.”

Follow Manley’s campaign on Facebook. He is also accepting donations on his crowdfunding site.

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