RALEIGH — Luke Stancil, who is on a Reagan-inspired mission to cut spending and lower taxes, hefts a large red satchel through the N.C. General Assembly, filled with the notes and documents that outline his political philosophy.
Sure, he's only 12 and sometimes has to leave early for roller hockey, but Luke knows the ins and outs of the legislature better than some of the people who are paid to.
Why does he enjoy keeping tabs on the lawmakers? That's easy. "So I know what they're doing to my future."
Luke is the son of Jackson Stancil, a legislative aide to Johnston County Republican Rep. J.H. Langdon Jr., and visits the legislature most summer days. He started dropping by when he was about 6, but admits his 2004 grasp of the legislative process was a work in progress.
"I didn't know what was going on until I was probably about 10," he said on Friday, near the end of a nine-hour day.
Inside the satchel, Luke carries highlighted copies of bills with handwritten notes in the margins. Dressed in a Wolfpack-red tie knotted by his father and a brown sport coat that he'll grow into before you know it, he chatted with legislators and lobbyists and watched from the gallery as members of the house inched toward concluding the session.
He often sits with Becki Gray, vice president for outreach for the John Locke Foundation. If Gray needs information about what happened in a committee or is looking for an update on a bill, she'll sometimes ask Luke.
"He reads the bills that I think some legislators don't," she said.
Luke will soon be an eighth-grader at Archer Lodge Middle School in Johnston County. He says school doesn't do much for him right now. Middle school teachers don't teach enough about politics.
And although he roams the hallways of the legislature, it will be a while before his formal education catches up with his desires. Luke won't be able to apply for Tar Heel Boys State, an intensive political summer workshop, until he finishes his junior year of high school.
Aiming for the top
Jackson Stancil said that not long after Luke first visited the legislature, he arranged stuffed animals on his bed at home to form his own legislative body. He passed imaginary bills, signaling their passage with an honest-to-goodness gavel that Langdon gave him for Christmas.
Once, Luke's older brother and some of his friends were teasing him about his political obsessions while he was trying to do his homework. Jackson Stancil remembers exactly what his son told them: "That's OK. One day you'll be working for me." And then he banged that gavel.
Luke has since moved from imaginary intentions to more concrete ones. After graduating from college, he plans to run for the N.C. House at age 22. After becoming speaker of the house, he has his eyes on a more powerful seat. Rep. Larry Brown sees the potential and has already given him a nickname: governor.
When asked whether he enjoyed the nickname, Luke smiled, and with wide eyes leaned back and took a swig of Mountain Dew.
First, though, he'll need to get elected to the House. He figures 60 percent of today's members will be around when he's sworn in, which will give him a built-in advantage.
Friendships, after all, mean everything in politics.
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