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Political season is firmly upon us, and while the nation obsesses about the presidential race, The News-Press plans to drum up that same passion and energy for our local elections.

After all, local officials ó like county commissioners, school board members and legislators ó have more impact on your daily lives than the president.

Thereís more drama at the federal level, but when it comes to roads, public safety, parks, textbooks, health care services, encouraging business development and good water quality, your local and regional officials matter ó a lot.

On Monday, the editorial board will start our electoral endorsement meetings, and we will be sitting down with individual candidates over several weeks through mid-July.

The qualifying date for local races isnít until June 8, so we will make sure to invite any new candidates who end up making it on the ballot.

The News-Press and news-press.com are the one-stop source for the deepest database of pertinent information on candidates, from biographical facts to their positions and how they plan to implement their priorities. Videos of the interviews and candidate questionnaires will be posted soon on news-press.com/politics.

We have been vetting candidates for office for many years and have done that not just because of historical precedent but because it provides the board the opportunity to have contact and access to the candidates that the general public may not have.

Whether one agrees with our endorsement decisions or not, we pledge to give a comprehensive and fair analysis of each race and candidate. Readers have called us in the past to ask about endorsement decisions, and we believe it is an important service that we have strived to do well for years.

Thirty-five candidates have agreed to participate in the process, and I recently sent an email to remind others that they are welcome to be part of the process, if they choose.

This year we are focusing on the following races: Congress, Florida Senate, Florida House, Lee County commission, Lee County School Board and constitutional officers: sheriff, clerk of court, property appraiser, tax collector and elections supervisor.

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After the Aug. 14 primary election, we will consider expanding that scope to include other elections, such as, judges and the hospital board.

Our editorial board members are President and Publisher Mei-Mei Chan, Executive Editor Terry Eberle, Conversation Link Martha Hill, myself and citizen members Pam Grothaus, Luis Insignares and Dick Kalfus.

We are also asking past citizen members to join us to help us vet the candidates. Any current or past citizen member who openly supports a candidate by way of personal endorsement or campaign donation will be asked to recuse him or herself from recommending anyone in that particular race.

Our recommendation to the publisher will be based on candidatesí answers to our questionnaire, a background check and the face-to-face interview.

Those interviews will be recorded via iPad video and, as I mentioned earlier, we will share excerpts of the footage with you on news-press.com/politics.

We want the public to get to know their candidates better and share their thoughts and feedback.

Endorsements are not based on money, popularity or connections, but on the qualities each individual offers the community as public servants.

We take this process very seriously.

Editorial board members look forward to meeting with the candidates in the weeks to come, and if you, the readers, have any questions for them, please email me.

Governor's visit

Gov. Rick Scott is scheduled to meet with the editorial board Monday. It will be an hourlong conversation on a variety of issues, and we plan to keep you abreast about what he says. Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

David Plazas is the community conversation editor of The News-Press. His email is dplazas@news-press.com.

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