The Green Party entourage is finally waved onto Rice Street as a gentle drizzle begins to fall. The route is crowded with Hispanic and Hmong immigrants mixing with the blue collar whites and blacks who have traditionally made the area their home. Pentel rushes to the curb and hands out his fliers in a frantic canvas that hardly leaves time to breathe. “Hi, I’m Ken Pentel, Green Party candidate for governor. Hi, I’m Ken Pentel. I’ll be an option for you this fall. Candidate for governor, Green Party. Ken Pentel. I’ll be an option this fall. Hi, Ken Pentel, I’m running for governor. Green Party.”
The bewildered smiles of non-English speakers follow many of these encounters. But there are other reactions: the gratified smiles of recent immigrants who’ve never met a potential governor, a slap on the back from an elderly black man who understands hard work, the very young white mother who directs the respectful attention of her children to the candidate.
Only four blocks into the parade the steady drizzle becomes a downpour. Most spectators rush home. The remainder hides beneath awnings. Ahead, several parade floats surrender and turn off the route. But Ken Pentel is still working the voters, thrusting brochures at anyone with a free hand. “Ken Pentel. I’ll be an option this fall. Ken Pentel. Green Party candidate for governor. Hi, I’m Ken Pentel. Green Party. Ken Pentel. Running for governor.”
Lightning streaks over what remains of the parade. Pentel is now walking in the middle of Rice Street, arms raised over his head, looking like a soaked messianic street preacher. “Ken Pentel, I’m running for governor!” He yells. “Green Party candidate! Living wage jobs!” He begins to laugh at the absurdity of the situation, but it’s not enough to stop him. “Health care for everyone! Ken Pentel! I’ll be an option in the fall!” The rain is falling so hard that nobody further than five feet away can hear him. Undeterred, he continues for another half mile.