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In 1996, our family was living in Tampa, Fla. My son, James, was in first grade, and his sister, Andrea, was in second. Grandpa was living with us to help with child care while I taught at the University of South Florida and my husband was remote on military business.

At the beginning of the year, James came home and announced that he was running for president of the elementary school. Andrea was aghast and stated, “You can’t run for president. You’re only in first grade! And besides, you have to be nominated. Who nominated you?”

James replied, “Mrs. M asked if there were any nominations for president, and Tommy raised his hand and named his sixth-grade brother, Kenny, and I raised my hand and named Me.”

Andrea gasped as this was so humiliating to an older sister. “You can’t nominate yourself. You can’t do that in America!”

“Yes, I can,” he replied, “I’m on the ticket. And I know how to win. Last year, Amy L’s brother in fifth-grade won. Her mom gave them bags of candy which Amy’s brother, Larry, and Amy in kindergarten handed out to every kid as they entered the school, telling them to vote for Larry. Most kids voted for Larry ’cause of the candy, and every kindergartener did ’cause of Amy. It was a easy win. I can win now that I know how.”

So, Andrea became James’ campaign manager. Grandpa and the kids decided that another good strategy would be to put posters with Andrea (sister but beautiful girl), James (handsome but bucktoothed candidate) and Claude (endearing but homely dog) around the school. They did this, and James made campaign speeches along with his older and possibly more clever competitor, Kenny. James and Andrea handed out bushels of candy but, not surprisingly, so did Kenny. On election day, James lost his bid for presidency but had a respectable finish for a first-grader in a K-6 elementary school.

After the election, Grandpa asked James why he thought he lost, despite the candy and dog and beautiful-girl pictures. He shrugged, “Candy was good, but there’s more kindergartners than in any other grade. Kindergartners voted for Kenny ’cause he has friends in kindergarten and he told them to vote for him. Kindergartners don’t know nothin’ and will do whatever you tell ’em. I lost the kindergarten vote.”

Lesson learned: Successful politics, like everything else, begins in kindergarten, and innocent ignorance will play as big a part as candy.

Constance Lynch, Lexington Park