For four days, The Maui News supplement "Elections 2012" has had a prominent spot in the periodical library, aka the kitchen table. Front-page stories about the candidates have been - and will be - read. Ditto the letters to the editor and the sprinkling of paid campaign ads. Add conversations with other will-be voters.
Time to pay special attention to the woefully brief list of candidates for the Maui County Council. Only three of the nine possible races will be decided in Saturday's primary election. In contested races, the top two vote-getters - if there are at least three - go on to the general election. Federal and state offices are decided in traditional party primaries.
Since 1998, county officials have been elected on a nonpartisan basis, eliminating political party labels, if not philosophy. It also eliminated what was once a mainstay of Maui politics - party advertising and grass-roots organization. Old issues of The Maui News usually sported at least one full-page ad for party candidates.
Individuals have to do it all these days. Better? Worse? Hard to tell. Maui voters have always been more person than party oriented - at least on the county level. Face it. Not much point in party allegiances when there are only nine council members and they are forbidden to meet privately.
As it happens, there is no contest for my council district. Just two candidates who will meet in the general. Even so, there are choices to be made. Every voter in the county votes for all nine members of the council.
Merits of single-district voting aside, there is no unimportant member of the County Council. Hmm. Let's see. Who is likely to do his or her homework and arrive at meetings ready to discuss specifics instead of wasting everyone's time getting familiar with a proposal and thinking out loud?
Take another look at the coffee-stained supplement. Platitudes galore but their priorities may be the best indications available. Too bad that most of the candidates put the economy or availability of jobs at the top of their lists. Most of Maui's economy is being determined by national and international events.
The only way Maui's economy can be improved locally is with construction. That means development. The county plays a part but developers usually borrow to get under way and finagling large loans depends on the general financial health of the country. It might be worth remembering there are some 4,000 housing units legally ready to go but are just sitting due to financial considerations.
Of course, there are always county construction jobs possible but only if council members are willing to either raise taxes or put the county into debt by issuing bonds. There's at least one incumbent who seems to think a good credit rating - fewer bonds issued - is more important than needed infrastructure improvements such as developing more water sources.
It's no mental strain to decide on the three candidates from my state Senate district. Kind of surprised to see how many candidates there are for the two open federal offices.
In the race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Daniel Akaka, you'd think Linda Lingle has no competition. Not so. There will be five other Republicans on the ballot. Mazie Hirono has squared off against Ed Case, or vice versa, but there are three other candidates on the Democrat ballot. Incidentally, Ed Case is Steve Case's cousin, not a brother as some might think. Which candidate can defeat Lingle seems to be the big issue among Democrats.
There are six Democrats and two Republicans running for the U.S. House 2nd District seat. Two of the Democrats with significant political backgrounds have Samoan roots. There's one Hawaiian, one with a Japanese last name and one haole from the Mainland. All I know about the GOP candidates are their names.
Think about going up to the Kula Community Center to vote Saturday. It's always a pleasure. Plenty of smiles from the volunteers. Chance to talk to seldom-seen friends. The center itself is an attractive building overlooking Lower Kula Road and Holy Ghost Church. Might be fun to hit the the road in time to see the polls open at 7 a.m.
There's still time to do a little more studying and thinking. How about you? Yeah, that's what I thought. Hmm.
* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.