The election is approaching, right?

We’re a month away from West Virginia’s primary election, although, with the exception of a few campaign signs which recently started to appear, one might wonder if area residents are even aware.

There are several races on the ballot May 8, with U.S. Senate and U.S. House seats up for grabs, as well as all of our House of Delegates seats and one of our two state Senate positions.

Both Hancock and Brooke counties have seats up for grabs on the county commissions and the county boards of education.

We are in the process of contacting each of those local candidates in an effort to better inform the voters prior to election day.

Still, it’s troubling there has not been much up to now.

Weirton resident Jack Newbrough has held a few meet-and-greets in the community, and former Massey Energy chief Don Blankenship held an early afternoon get-together a few weeks back. Both are seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in the hope of unseating Joe Manchin.

William Ihlenfeld came to Weirton to make his official state Senate candidacy announcement. A Democrat, Ihlenfeld will be facing Republican incumbent Ryan Ferns, although both will move on to the general election in the fall.

Beyond that, there have been no campaign events in Hancock and Brooke counties. Well, let me clarify that. There have been no events of which we at this newspaper have been notified. These days, it’s always a possibility candidates simply don’t want the media around.

Apparently, a debate has been planned for Wheeling in about two weeks, featuring the GOP candidates for U.S. Senate. Information on that event, being organized by the Wheeling newspapers, can be found on today’s front page.

I realize several of the seats up for grabs are basically “pass-through” elections during the primary; those guaranteed to move on to the general election. There also are some which are for the political executive committees.

That could mean folks feel as if there is little to consider this time around, but they shouldn’t.

There should still be some effort to campaign and to inform the voters of the issues and platforms, whether the ultimate decision is in a few weeks or a few months.

Normally, a civic group has planned some type of candidate forum by now, especially with early voting set to begin in a little over a week.

Honestly, though, I can’t say I blame those who normally hold such events for not scheduling anything, as yet. During the last few election cycles, when a meet-and-greet or debate has been held, outside of the organizing group and the candidates, attendance by residents has been low.

I’m sure it’s disappointing to put together an activity which is so crucial to our election process and have maybe 10 people show up.

Still, it’s an important part of elections and I would encourage any group who may still consider organizing a gathering to do so soon.

No matter what the political climate might be, and no matter what party affiliation, it is critical to be familiar with all of the candidates set to appear on your local ballot.

These are the individuals who will be representing you on various levels of government, and whether it be on the school board or county commission, or in Charleston or Washington, D.C., you need to know the kind of people they are, not just what rhetoric or messages they use.

We’ve run a full listing of candidates for local and state offices, and those same lists also can be found on the West Virginia Secretary of State’s website.

That website includes information on important dates for this year’s election cycle.

We’ll continue to do our part, and I hope the candidates are out there meeting with residents, but, as always, I encourage the voters to make use of the next few weeks and learn what they can about everyone on the ballot.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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