It’s that time of year again – a primary election for offices both local and national – an election that will decide the nominees to run as Governor, Lt. Governor, U.S. Senate, U.S. Congress and state representative.

In Montgomery County’s new 4th Congressional District, a trio of Democrats vies to represent the new district, a milestone for Montco residents who have been without their own congressional representative for a long time due to gerrymandering.

There are no primary contests in the race for the 2nd U.S. District, of which Northwest Philadelphia is part, and the 4th Pa. Senatorial District that includes Chestnut Hill, Mt. Airy. Cheltenham and Abington. But there is one in the 200th district – a local race pitting incumbent Chris Rabb against West Oak Lane native Melissa Scott.

In this issue, we put a bulk of our resources into reporting on the 200th. It’s a race that hasn’t received a great deal of scrutiny in the past. In fact, many state representative contests don’t. There are 203 seats across the state, and in a busy political area like Philadelphia, with contested races for everything from City Controller to Municipal Court Judge, it’s easy for state representative races to get lost.

But the office is immensely important and should be taken seriously, not only by the voters but by the news outlets that purport to serve those voters.

Much has been made recently of “news deserts,” places in America underserved by traditional print media, in which large populations have few daily newspapers. Many observers say dwindling print news service has most affected coverage of city halls and state houses to the detriment of all involved. A recent story in the national news outlet Politico drew a connection between news deserts and popular vote totals for Donald Trump – where there was no news, support for the president was highest.

It turns out that in order for democracy to stand a fighting chance, voters need to have more information than names on a ballot.

And nothing may be more important than starting with the contests that are most local, like the 200th – the smallest political unit in which Chestnut Hill is part. In a recent piece by Atlantic national correspondent James Fallows titled “The Reinvention of America,” many of us still depend on our local elected leaders, even as our trust in the federal government reaches new lows.

“[A] national poll that The Atlantic commissioned with the Aspen Institute at the start of the 2016 primaries found that only 36 percent of Americans thought the country as a whole was headed in the right direction,” Fallows wrote. “Other polls in the past half-dozen years have found that most Americans believe the country to be on the wrong course—but that their own communities are improving.”

Fallows goes on to cite a poll that shows that while only 25 percent of Americans trust the federal government to do the right thing, more than 70 percent trust their local government to do so.

Whether people in the 200th share that level of optimism is debatable, but in a political climate in which apathy is bred by feelings of helplessness, the same can’t be said for a local race in which every vote really makes a noticeable difference. So be sure to participate in the primary on May 15.

Pete Mazzaccaro

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