About a week ago, my five-year-old son and I attended a festival at his school that included games, crafts and food. After waiting in line at a popcorn stand, a casually dressed man stooped over and began asking each child for their name and whether they would like him to serve them some popcorn.
I don’t think many parents or their children recognized the popcorn man. I probably wouldn’t have either if I wasn’t connected to the political community through my job at the Arizona Capitol Times.
At first, he was just a familiar face and I couldn’t figure out where I had seen him before. I eavesdropped as he talked with students accompanied by their parents, never once mentioning his title during introductions. When I got close enough, I saw he was wearing a badge with his name, three little elephant symbols and “LD12.”
When it was our turn, I asked the popcorn man whether he had children because I was curious why he would spend his time volunteering at a school festival. He said he had been married for about a year, didn’t have any children and was hoping to start a family soon.
What’s most notable about my short talk with the popcorn man, though, is what he didn’t say. He never mentioned that he was running for re-election. He didn’t launch into a political discussion. He didn’t ask my party affiliation. And he didn’t try to solicit my vote.
As he explained his plans to have children of his own someday, I was still waiting for the inevitable campaign plug, the “make-sure-you-vote” speech or some other subtle signal that he wants me to remember his name on election day.
But that didn’t happen.
Instead, Rep. Steve Montenegro just smiled and handed my son a bag of popcorn.