Editorial: There are some subtle rules to this game

When the heat and humidity soar, November and Election Day may seem a long way off, but they’re really not. And although the politicking has only just begun, it all ends in less than four months. Tuesday was the deadline for all would-be candidates to file nominating petitions, a basic and unavoidable prerequisite for securing a seat on the ballot. Once the petitions are validated, with or without a challenge first, nominees become bona fide candidates.

In years past, local elections really didn’t start in earnest until after Labor Day, but that no longer seems to be the case.

Candidates and party leaders are already out there slugging away and it seems we’re in for a very long campaign. As we’ve always done and pride ourselves in doing, our newspapers and websites will provide complete coverage of the various town and county races. The county executive’s position and all 18 Suffolk Legislature seats will be decided in the fall. Locally, supervisor positions and other Town Board seats are up for grabs, as are a number of other town positions, including judgeships.

Democracy is an imperfect and often messy business and election campaigns frequently generate far more heat than light. Some years ago the race for a seat on Southold’s Board of Trustees was sidetracked over the issue of a candidate’s refusal to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. Some venerable issues, property taxes and land preservation for example, can be counted on to color, if not dominate, the dialogue. It’s up to all of us to recognize the differences between what’s merely entertaining and what’s critical to our communities’ future.

In the coming weeks, these pages will undoubtedly carry considerable commentary about who and what is on the ballot. To those seeking office, stick to the issues. Aside from a single introductory letter from each candidate, this isn’t the place for self-promotion or promises — and those types of letters won’t see ink. And if you’re a member of a local political committee, you will be identified as such.

For those letters that do stick to the issues, and call out officials or others on their actions or positions, remember to keep it civil. We live in small towns and today’s opponents can be tomorrow’s friends and neighbors. That’s not a prohibition against tough criticism, but it is a ban on nasty, personal attacks. That’s not who we are and not who we want to be.