Now’s the time to get involved in the election


The 2018 election is rapidly shaping up to be one of the most contentious in recent memory, if not in U.S. history. The nation is polarized, with people divided along hyper-partisan lines. The political scene — if you can imagine this — is about to get nastier than it already is.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6.

The inclination of many voters, weary of the bluster and backstabbing, might be to sit this one out. Don’t. Our nation appears to be at a flashpoint, when voter participation is needed now more than ever, particularly at the local level.

It’s easy to lose sight of the importance of so-called down-ballot races, because they’re often less visible — especially when President Trump’s doings dominate the political discourse. As engrossing as the presidential Twitter stream might be, it’s important to remember that there is so much more to our political landscape than what happens at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

While the president certainly influences every aspect of our lives, from the drafting of laws to the creation of jobs to the ups and downs of the economy, it takes a cohesive network of local officials to effect change.

This year, New Yorkers will see a mix of races — for governor, Congress, State Senate and Assembly. Outside of the governor’s race — which pits Andrew Cuomo against the Republican nominee, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro — the candidates are local people who represent us at the top levels of federal and state government. Whom we put in office matters, because the essential job of an elected leader is to advocate for constituents’ interests.

All 435 seats are up in the House of Representatives, and as we have been so vividly reminded in recent years, Congress’s makeup determines the tone and effectiveness of the federal government, arguably even more so than the president. Laws start on their road to enactment in Congress, and the president’s initiatives often hinge on the level of support in the House.

The same is true in Albany: State government doesn’t begin and end with the governor. Nothing gets done without the Assembly and Senate. We’ve seen deadlocks in the Capitol, but we’ve also seen sustained periods of action. In recent years, the State Legislature has implemented a property-tax cap and has passed the Marriage Equality Act. It determines how much money our local schools and hospitals receive. These are big decisions that affect all of our lives. That’s why it’s important to elect the people who you believe will best represent your interests in Albany.

To arrive at informed opinions, voters must get to know the candidates. We encourage people to become as informed about races for the Legislature as they are about those on the federal level.

In the coming weeks, the Herald will introduce you to the candidates. You’ll have a chance to read about their positions on a range of issues, and what their priorities will be if they’re elected.

The Herald does not deviate from our objective coverage in the news section. We give biographical information on the candidates, and ask them each a series of questions on major issues. Each candidate is given equal space — up to 250 words per answer. Candidates provide those answers in written form. We do not alter their answers, except to clean up grammar and spelling. This coverage is unusual, but we believe it offers you, our readers, the opportunity to hear from the candidates directly.

On the last Thursday before the election, Nov. 1, we will publish our endorsements in all local races. This is also unusual for a local weekly newspaper. Often, community papers are reluctant to write endorsements, fearing that they might anger powerful elected leaders. We believe, however, that it is our duty to publish endorsements to aid our readers in choosing their preferred candidates.

Each candidate sits down with at least three or four of our editors and reporters — at times more — who, as a group, interview the candidate for up to an hour. We also conduct a background check on the candidate, examining his or her record dating back years. By consensus, we decide whom to endorse.

You shouldn’t stop with the Herald’s coverage, though. Check out candidates’ campaign websites, and their Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.

And, on Election Day, don’t forget to vote.