LAKEWOOD RANCH — Congressman Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, took a break from the debate of small government versus big government and clean energy versus oil Oct. 16, when he gave preschoolers a first-hand look at the political process at Primrose School.
Buchanan, the fifth-year Republican congressman for Florida’s 13th congressional district who is vying for the District 16 seat in this election, monitored for voter fraud and told tales of his tae-kwon-do teaching days, while Primose students participated in a mock debate pitting Percy the Rooster against Billy the Duck.
Buchanan stood out in the classroom of preschoolers, his 6-foot-tall frame overpowering a child-size chair, as some wide-eyed, fidgety preschoolers sat in front of him asking questions.
Students held mini-American flags as they listened.
Before the mock election began, Buchanan asked students what issues matter to them, while also talking about the importance of voting.
The children listed tennis, basketball, soccer and school as particularly pressing issues.
One boy casually blurted out that he too, like Buchanan, played soccer.
A child wearing a red, white and blue plaid outfit asked Buchanan if he lives in the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
Before Buchanan could respond, one of his aides — who snapped pictures during the visit — asked, “What do you do up there (in Washington)?”
Buchanan replied, laughing, “I’m not sure myself.”
Then the election began.
A Primose teacher highlighted the candidates’ strengths. Percy the Rooster likes to act boldly and try new things but always makes good choices. Billy the Duck always keeps his promises and enjoys listening to music.
A secondary vote focused on snacks. Kids could choose between cheese and crackers and yogurt with bananas. Buchanan tried to insert a third-party candidate into that race.
“What do you guys think of broccoli?” Buchanan asked. “Do you like spinach?”
One-by-one, teachers called students’ names and gave each a voter registration card. The students, seemingly aware of the significance of their vote, would hurry over to Buchanan, who verified the voter’s identity.
“Is that really you?” Buchanan asked as he peered down at a card and a smiling boy in a red shirt looked back. “You look really good there.”
Children then tucked their votes into a box and received an “I voted today” sticker on their shirts.
Playfulness aside, Buchanan couldn’t avoid the seriousness of the presidential race in Washington.
Shortly after sitting down, Buchanan’s phone rang.
Unfazed, Buchanan joked, “That was the president. I will call him right back.”
After one boy trotted toward him without an “I voted today” sticker, Buchanan said, “He didn’t vote yet. That’s voter fraud.”
In a moment before election results were released, Buchanan referenced a Boys & Girls Club slogan, saying that children “are 25% of the population but represent 100% of the future.”
At the end of a week during which he visited three local schools — a break from the 40 weeks per year that he spends in Washington, D.C. — Buchanan raised his arms as he announced the results of the mock election.
Billy the Duck would serve cheese and crackers.
Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].