When the three candidates for judge in Somerset County sat down for a public forum recently in Windber, they shared similar stories.

Walking the campaign trail, each had encountered people who were engaged in this year’s election, who were following the races, asking questions and getting ready to make decisions about which candidates to support.

And they had encountered people who were detached from the political process, who weren’t sure who was running, and even which offices were open in their communities.

And sadly, they all acknowledged that the latter group outnumbered the former by a wide margin.

We have just two days to turn that trend around. It’s not too late.

The race for Somerset County judge is one of many in the region where voters can help choose people who will set the agenda and make key decisions concerning local issues.

In that judge battle, three candidates – District Attorney Jerry Spangler, Assistant District Attorney Greg Geary and Windber lawyer David Klementik – all bring strong credentials to the race. All have solid backgrounds in the law, all are active in their communities. But only two will win on Tuesday and assume seats on the Court of Common Pleas.

Which one will you vote for, if you reside in Somerset County?

In Cambria County, there are interesting and competitive races all around, from the supervisors race in Jackson Township to the battle for seats on the Richland school board

“Most people don’t concern themselves with who is sitting on the school board,” said current Richland board president Rex McQuaide, “and they really should.”

Voters can choose whether to retain longtime Cambria County Judge Gerard Long or Bedford County Judge Daniel L. Howsare.

And on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Justices Sandra Schultz Newman and Russell Nigro will be on the ballot seeking support for retention on the bench.

People who vote can help make that decision.

All across the region, there are compelling and important races for seats on school boards and on boards of supervisors, for county offices, for municipal positions, for mayor or council.

Some of the candidates advanced through the spring primary. Others are looking to generate support as write-in candidates, or represent “third” parties.

While elections for president and governor draw the strongest turnouts – sure, we’re all aware of Ed Rendell and George W. Bush – it is these offices which most directly affect our daily lives.

Parents and property owners owe it to themselves to know who’s running for school board.

Worried about the roads or police service in your township? Better know who’s running for supervisor.

Concerned about drugs, or the legal system in your county? Better look into those judicial races.

Not caring is not an option.

In discussing the coming election day, Guy Anthony, a Green Party candidate for mayor in Johnstown, observed: “People seem disconnected from their elected officials and from government in general.”

Yes they do.

On Tuesday, let’s start down a new course.

Vote.

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