Alex Earles was eight years old when he voted for Bob Dole for President. It was not a real ballot. Poll workers in Assaria made unofficial ballots for Earles, Salina sophomore, as a child because they knew he always came with his mother to vote.
"We always talked about news and politics as a family," Earles said.
Earles told his friends and family last year that he was gay, turning the small town he grew up in on its head. But nothing about Earles really changed, not even his political affiliation with the Republican Party.
Earles said he decided to come out after coming to college and meeting other gay people.
"When I first came out I thought I should change parties and become a Democrat," Earles said. "But my views didn't change, I was still a moderate Republican. Ultimately, you have to follow what you believe in."
Earles refers to himself as a moderate Republican because he supports gay marriage, but that is the only issue he disagrees with the Republican Party on. But Earles' mother had fears when her son first came out.
"He's always wanted to be in politics and I thought, ‘Oh no, now he can't,'" Robin Earles said. "So I hope he still has a chance to do that and that people come around enough for that to happen for him because he'd be so good at it."
"My future political ambitions held me back from coming out sooner," Earles said. "I've always wanted to run for office, but thought no open gay could."
Earles changed his mind after being out for a year.
"Why can't I run?" he said. "If I'm open and honest it shouldn't make a bit of difference. I still want to be a leader and part of being a good leader is taking chances and risks."