This Tuesday Monroe County voters will settle several long-running debates when polling locations close at 7 p.m.

These contests will be the culmination of years of preparation for some, and months of hard work for most. For many of those on the ballot, their candidacy began long ago when they first moved to Monroe County, graduated from law school or passed the “Uniform Certified Public Accountant” exam.

The good people on these ballots deserve our gratitude for giving us the opportunity to practice one of the founding principles of our government — democracy.

While its easy to assume the campaigning began just a few months ago with cocktail receptions and bumper stickers, a number of these candidates began plotting their campaigns last summer.

And these endeavors can be expensive. From the signs to the advertising, mailers and expenses a candidate can easily spend upwards of $50,000 to land a job where they might have to re-apply again in two, four or six years.

And then there is the windshield time. Time away from friends, family, dinner tables, soccer games and fishing.

Full blown, countywide contests require a tremendous time commitment because of the linear makeup of the Florida Keys. To win a race, candidates are expected — if not required — to attend multiple, weekly Rotary club meetings (there are seven in Monroe County), the monthly Chamber of Commerce’s After Hours and luncheons (there are five in the Monroe County), plus all the charity events, political forums and the regularly scheduled meetings for their perspective office.

Monroe County candidates can easily put 100,000 miles on their cars in 12 months.

This amounts to countless hours spent away from their work, too.

No matter which candidate you choose this Tuesday and again in November, please take moment to thank them for keeping democracy alive.

These candidates have placed their personal and professional in full public view because they believe in public service.

The jobs, although they may seem glamorous, are most often not and all the candidates deserve our sincerest appreciation.

Let’s show our appreciation by hitting the polls.

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