Labor Day is over and the state fair, held as a drive-thru this year, is literally and figuratively in the rearview mirror.

That means it’s election season in Minnesota, even if the presidential camps have been slinging doomsday put-downs for months already. In Duluth and Northeastern Minnesota, noteworthy and competitive races include tilts for U.S. Senate, the Eighth Congressional District, state Senate, the state House, and St. Louis County Board.

It’s a lot of candidates, a lot of stances, and a lot of local politics to digest and consider in the eight weeks until Election Day on Nov. 3 (or until whatever day the half or more of voters this fall expected to vote absentee fill out their ballots at home).

If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by the need to bone up on all the challengers and incumbents and issues before making informed choices, look no further than the News Tribune. We have you covered.

The newspaper is partnering again with the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce to host four candidate forums, on Sept. 18 (U.S. Senate: Sen. Tina Smith vs. Jason Lewis), Sept. 22 (Minnesota House District 7A: Rep. Jennifer Schultz vs. Tom Sullivan, and Minnesota House District 7B: Rep. Liz Olson vs. Art Johnston), Sept. 30 (Minnesota Senate District 3: Sen. Tom Bakk vs. Christopher Hogan, and Minnesota Senate District 7: Donna Bergstrom vs. Jennifer McEwen), and Oct. 7 (Eighth Congressional District: Rep. Pete Stauber vs. Quinn Nystrom).

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The News Tribune is also sponsoring on its own a candidate forum Oct. 13 with St. Louis County Board candidates Ashley Grimm and Joe Macor and a candidate forum on Oct. 15 with Minnesota District 11 Sen. Jason Rarick (though he hasn’t yet confirmed) and Michelle Lee.

All the forums are scheduled for 11 a.m. They’re all going to be held virtually due to distancing and other precautions made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic. They all will be available for viewing live and/or for watching on-demand later at duluthnewstribune.com.

And they all will be “civility certified,” with the participation of Speak Your Peace: The Civility Project, an effort launched in 2003 by the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation that has since gone global. Duluthians can appreciate that the project remains active here.

In addition, the News Tribune Opinion pages in the coming weeks will be filled with columns from candidates and endorsement editorials. The Editorial Board will be meeting one-on-one via Zoom with as many as 14 candidates in seven races beyond those listed above for Minnesota House, Minnesota Senate, and St. Louis County Board.

What matters most, of course, is what you think. Your vote, whether cast absentee or on Election Day. As the News Tribune has opined before, voting is our duty and responsibility as citizens and as members of our community. All of us who are eligible to vote have a voice, and no one should let their voice go silent over something as important as picking our elected representatives. Voting is a privilege. We can remember that in the early days of our nation, most states allowed only wealthy white men to vote. Over decades, many courageous individuals — most notably women and African-Americans — fought for and even died for the right to vote. Going to the polls is not to be taken for granted. It's an opportunity denied to citizens in far too many other nations.

An informed vote considers more than the letter or letters following a candidate’s name. The upcoming candidate forums are great opportunities to begin learning about those who hope to represent us, or continue representing us, locally and at the state and federal levels. They’re opportunities not to be missed.