On the Republican side, candidate Phil Matthews yearns for the days of William Howard Taft. Even Taft, though, might be a little too up-to-date for Commissioner Paul Coble, with his antebellum approach to things. Commissioner Tony Gurley, the chair, is more of a Dick Nixon Republican. Commissioner Joe Bryan, a former chair, has come unmoored—but he does have a party, and it’s spelled GOP.

And on the Democratic side, the history that appeals to candidate Steve Rao is about the integration of Raleigh’s and Wake’s schools a half-century ago — a breakthrough that he accurately places as the beginning of the emergence of RTP as a progressive economic force for the region. Candidate Jack Nichols likes the history of his own time on the Wake commissioners (1990-94), when the trajectory was upward and bipartisan. Candidate Don Mial is old enough to remember the segregated schools he attended as a child. Commissioner Lindy Brown is too.

These eight square off for the four seats on the Wake Board of County Commissioners held currently by Bryan, Brown, Gurley and Coble. Early voting (and one-stop registration & voting) starts next week and ends the Saturday before Election Day. Election Day is Nov. 2.

Four district seats, in terms of where the candidates live …

… but all four races are countywide, so regardless of where you live, you have a vote in each of the four districts:

* District 1 (East Wake): Republican Joe Bryan vs. Democrat Don Mial.

* District 2 (South Wake): Democrat Lindy Brown vs. Republican Phil Matthews.

* District 3 (Raleigh-North Wake): Republican Tony Gurley vs. Democrat Steve Rao.

* District 7 (Raleigh-West Wake): Republican Paul Coble vs. Democrat Jack Nichols.