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These contests have primary importance

March 28, 2004|by BILL KOHLER

Ahh, spring.

A time of hope, renewal and March madness.

As I mournfully prepare to shred another once-promising, now-worthless NCAA tournament bracket filled with Stanfords, Kentuckys and Gonzagas in the Sweet 16, I get ready to turn the calendar to the remaining spring months.

In the world of the Tri-State section, hope and March madness turn into April anticipation and May momentum.

Why the anticipation?

Elections, of course.

Election coverage is something newspapers take very seriously, and The Herald-Mail is no exception.

Our April not only will be filled with showers soaking the ground for those May flowers, it will be filled with primary election stories for April and May voters.

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Over the next several weeks, our Tri-State reporters will be writing stories previewing the upcoming primary elections in Pennsylvania (April 27) and West Virginia (May 11).

Why should we care so much?

Yes, votes by registered Democrats and Republicans will carry little weight in the presidential races since John Kerry and President Bush are already set for their November shouting match ... errr ... showdown.

It's the local races in those primaries that really matter.

Those are the races that will set the stage for the all-important general election in November. Those are the races - most notably the board of education races in West Virginia's Berkeley and Jefferson counties, which are decided in the primary - that will have immediate impacts on you and me.

The stories will cover all the races - from the U.S. House Republican primary race in Pennsylvania to the two state Senate primary contests in West Virginia.

Again, you ask, why should we care so much?

These are the people who will represent you for the next two to four years at various levels. These are the folks who will raise or lower your taxes, discuss teacher salaries, fight for a prescription drug plan for seniors, decide whether slots should be legalized in Pennsylvania and prosecute people charged with crimes.

Sounds like a lot to care about, and people who read the paper over the next several weeks will be better informed about the qualifications and ideas of the candidates.

One of the most important questions in the two primaries is for voters in Jefferson County. They will decide whether to give the Jefferson County Board of Education the go-ahead in seeking $19 million to help build a second high school in the county and to renovate the overcrowded Jefferson High School.

This is a high stakes vote that will have a lasting impact on the face of education in one of West Virginia's fastest growing counties.

* A vote approving the $19 million will permit the board to raise property taxes in the county to help fund the project.

* A vote against the project will put the county board of education back to square one on the issue and will force it to forfeit the $6 million it was awarded by the state Economic Development Committee.

A no vote will scrap many man-hours put in by school board and administration officials on the project.

See what I mean?

This is big doings, and it pays to be informed. The future of the county's schoolchildren hangs in the balance.

So, keep reading and anticipating and you'll get caught up in the momentum of one of our country's greatest democratic traditions - electing the people who will represent us.




Bill Kohler is Tri-State editor of The Herald-Mail. You may reach him at 1-800-626-6397, ext. 2023, or by e-mail at billk@herald-mail.com.

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