For more than a month, the other editors and I have been hunkered down in our usual pre-election meet-the-candidates, grill-the-candidates daily meetings.
The meetings give us a chance to hear from them in person before we make our endorsements.
I know what some of you are thinking: What's the use? The Gazette always endorses the Democrat, right?
Not always. Just ask Delegate Ron Walters, R-Kanawha, who we are backing in the 39th District.
Sometimes our picks are easy and obvious -- Obama instead of Romney, Tomblin over Maloney. But others are tough.
Take the circuit judge and sheriff's races in Putnam County. All four candidates would be good choices, which is a nice problem to have for the people of Putnam.
In both of those races, our endorsements came down to experience -- not political party. The sitting judge, Robert Leslie, who was appointed earlier this year, has already distinguished himself, and Bud Lett has excellent credentials to fight the county's drug problem.
As our endorsement list plays out, it's true that it will lean heavily Democratic. That's because it's hard to ignore candidates who stand for many of the same things that you read every day on our editorial page -- things like workers' rights, environmental protection, responsible development, health care for all, etc.
Unless you are one of those mythical "undecided" voters, we realize we're probably not going to change your mind in the major races. But, oftentimes, the smaller races are just as important to daily life in the Kanawha Valley, and we hope our input helps you decide on the most worthy candidates.
As always, some of the meetings were pretty routine. But some crackled with acrimony or downright weirdness.
Here are some of the highlights -- or maybe I should say lowlights -- from this year's round of meetings: