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Published July 30 2012

Forum editorial: It’s time to pay attention

Even as North Dakotans enjoy summer at the lake, at community festivals, out-of-state vacations or just engrossed in the London Olympics, the political season is ramping up to near fever pitch. It’s not there yet. That won’t happen for a few weeks. But the proliferation of political advertising on television and the candidates’ schedules indicate that the pace has picked up.

And it should. After all, August is a day away. In no time schools will open doors (the stores already are stacked with back-to-school materials). Families will get out of summer mode. The routine of school schedules and the other routines of autumn will take over.

One of those routines during a big election year will be to come to a decision about candidates for public office. In North Dakota, the ballot will be long – from president to county commissioners. Races for the U.S. Senate and U.S. House will dominate airwaves and newspaper columns because the contests for open seats are historic. Not only because the seats open, but because both might be close. And both have a female candidate on the Democratic ballot.

(Minnesota has a U.S. Senate contest and a race for the 7th Congressional District, but early analyses suggest they won’t be close.)

Candidates and their handlers stress the importance of the congressional contests. Control of the House and Senate is at stake, they say. One side wants control its way; the other wants it its way. North Dakotans will have the final say in November.

And that’s the point. As difficult as it is to stomach the toxic brew of TV political advertising, voters should pay attention. There really is a lot at stake. The federal races in North Dakota could make a difference in the way Congress tilts, especially the ultimate political complexion of the U.S. Senate.

So, cut through the nastiness of political adverting. Examine policy positions. Know what they really stand for, not what they say they stand for. Try to minimize the importance of a political party label (we know that’s tough for some folks), and get to know candidates as good people who want to serve their state and nation. Anything else is an abdication of the responsibility of citizenship.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.