It’s a sad fact that fewer people are choosing to vote in local municipal races in off-year elections, and this year was no exception. With the added distraction of the country’s “war on terrorism,” turnout in the Oct. 9 primary was stunningly low. To cite just one example, a mere 12 percent of Durham County voters cast ballots in the primary.

That’s a shame, because when it comes to politics, local elections are where the real action is. In local races, special-interest money still matters less and individual votes can make a significant difference. On Nov. 6, Triangle voters will be choosing the people who will be making decisions about such key quality-of-life issues as growth and development, public schools, affordable housing and the environment. This year voters will be making some critical choices in some pivotal races–among them, the close mayoral contests in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill; the crowded field of progressive candidates vying for seats on the Carrboro Board of Aldermen; and school board races in Wake and Orange counties.

Our endorsements are aimed at helping you make sense of the issues and candidates in these crucial local contests. Our recommendations are based on extensive research. We sent questionnaires addressing key issues in each race, asking every candidate to explain positions on pressing issues. We also conducted numerous interviews with local political activists and observers, and interviewed a number of candidates in person when more information was needed.

The results of our findings are organized into Wake, Orange/Chatham and Durham sections that follow. Each section includes a Voting Guide that you can clip out and carry to the polls and we will reprint those guides in our next issue, as well.