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With the start of early voting fast approaching, election antics are heating up in some of the races while, in others, the tone is turning more nasty.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown's attack ads against opponent Larry Hogan are interesting because, while they paint Hogan as extreme, the ads are generally more subdued in tone. There isn't some in-your-face person screaming about the evils of Hogan and the Republican Party, just seemingly average folks calmly talking about how Hogan's stands on certain issues, like education or abortion, would take us backward.

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Hogan doesn't have the war chest that Brown does, but it seems to me that he could be doing a better job pointing out Brown's record as lieutenant governor. I've seen some television ads where he grills Brown about the failed health exchange, but given Brown's reluctance to detail his involvement in a lot of controversial issues in the past eight years under Gov. Martin O'Malley, I think there is a lot of opportunity for Hogan. Perhaps he should hire Clint Eastwood to bring back the empty chair speech from the 2012 Republican National Convention but, instead of Obama, Eastwood could carry on a one way conversation with a missing Brown.

Locally, we see the routine ploys that have been utilized in the past by some candidates or their opponents in their efforts to gain votes.

We have a lot more direct dealings with the candidates throughout the election season. They fill out profile forms which we print and put on our website. Most have participated in forums that we either helped put on or attended. They are all out and about at the community events that we cover. And they have all their friends and supporters writing letters for the opinion page praising them or vilifying the opposition. But as I'm out and about in the community I encounter lots of people who don't have a clue about who their local candidates are, what they stand for or what electing them, or not electing, might mean for the future of the county.

As the election draws near, my mailbox is being filled with additional junk mail from candidates attacking their opponents or highlighting things that they think are positive. Some candidates are upset because others are using state or national figures to promote themselves, hoping apparently that the coattail effect will come into play. Already there have been complaints about some candidates placing their signs next to Hogan signs. The complainers say it makes it appear that Hogan is supporting them. I say that if you are basing your vote on where someone has a sign, you probably shouldn't be heading to the polls on Election Day.

If you are basing your vote solely on what anyone is saying, you are not as prepared as you should be to make the right decision. If you are letting your party affiliation dictate your vote, you haven't done your homework on the history of party politics in Carroll or the number of candidates who have switched parties and gotten elected.

Most importantly though, if you are basing your vote entirely on that flyer that appeared in your mailbox, you aren't getting the whole story.

There is still time to find out more about each of the candidates. Our website has profile information on just about all of them where they highlight their thoughts on issues they see as most important. More forums are planned for some of the contested races, and the Community Media Center website has provided candidates the opportunity to record a message to voters.

At the end of the day, attack ads don't tell you anything about where a candidate stands on issues. They only portray the opposing candidate in a negative light. The same is largely true for most of the direct mail pieces you might get; they only tell the part of the story that the candidate wants you to hear.

Our freedoms are based on an informed and engaged public deciding the direction that we want to go in. With the election fast approaching, time is short for you to do your part and research all the candidates, what they are for and what they are against, so that you can make an informed decision on Election Day. Don't abdicate your vote to a group, organization or political party. Make sure your vote reflects your priorities, whatever they may be.

Jim Lee is the Carroll County Times' Editor. Email him at jim.lee@carrollcountytimes.com.

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