From School Hallway To City Hall: Lancaster Senior Launches Campaign For Mayor

Mar 17, 2017

Clayton Lunsford was the first candidate to officially declare his candidacy to become the next mayor of Lancaster. He says he has big ideas about reshaping government and making it more responsive to people.

Clayton Lunsford is also 17 years old.

The senior at General Sherman Junior Senior High School says he’s always been passionate about politics, but was "invigorated" by the 2016 presidential election.

He supports Donald Trump, but thinks Trump's a "political novice.”

Lunsford’s candidacy for Lancaster mayor was certified by the Fairfield County Board of Elections earlier this month. He was the first candidate to enter the race, although other potential candidates have until August to decide.

Lunsford can enter the mayoral race as a minor because he turns 18 three months before the November election.

Though he's officially listed as an independent, Lunsford says he leans conservative. He obviously lacks the experience of most candidates vying to run an American city, but he says his youth makes him “uniquely qualified” for the position.

Like Trump, Lunsford says he want to change government.

“Lancaster has had a lot of people who have said they were qualified, they have experience. But where has that really gotten us?" he says. "What Lancaster really needs is some youthful enthusiasm."

While talking about the need for change, Lunsford was quick to bring up the name of Brian Kuhn, the former Lancaster mayor who resigned in disgrace earlier this year after pleading guilty to attempting to avoid paying a state tax return. Kuhn was also caught up in a gambling investigation involving his wife, who was indicted for embezzling, but he was never charged.

Among Lunsford’s big ideas is a plan to combine the city’s Economic Development and Community Development departments, as well as increasing investment in roads, and pushing the city to move away from criminalizing opiate addicts and toward a model where people are funneled into treatment instead of jail.

But at least for the next few weeks, Clayton Lunsford is still a high school senior. And he’s honest about how he was able to get out of school to come to the WOSU studios at 10 a.m. on a weekday.

“I told them I had an appointment,” he says with a grin. “It’s OK, I don’t miss school very much.”