Flying under a radar filled with COVID-19, Afghanistan, back to school, and more looms another major matter: the fall elections.

In Duluth, four City Council and four School Board seats are on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Local races may lack the high-profile, attention-getting, headlines-grabbing notoriety of presidential, gubernatorial, or other federal or state tilts, but these local races, in many ways, are more important. The decisions of our local elected officials more directly affect us where we live, work, and play.

To help eligible voters in Duluth make informed, good decisions at their polling places this fall, the News Tribune invited all the candidates in contested races (incumbent School Board member Jill Lofald is running unopposed in District 4) to write and submit columns detailing their platforms and making their best pleas for your votes. Their columns will be published in October.

More immediately, the News Tribune and Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce are collaborating once again to co-host four candidate forums, the first of which is scheduled for Tuesday. Candidates will take turns answering questions. The moderators — Chamber President Matt Baumgartner and News Tribune Editorial Page Editor Chuck Frederick — will dictate followup querying.

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The forums will be available via Zoom Webinars to the first 100 attendees to register.

The forums are scheduled for 10 a.m. on:

** Tuesday, Sept. 14, with School Board At Large incumbent Kelly Durick Eder and challengers Loren Martell and Amber Sadowski.

To register in advance for the Duluth School Board At Large candidate forum, go to https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_p-VxdHvERseeRnfz9P8AwA. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

** Thursday, Sept. 16, with School Board District 1 incumbent Rosie Loeffler-Kemp being challenged by Dana Krivogorsky.

To register in advance for the Duluth School Board District 1 candidate forum webinar, go to https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_pMw-B8u3RqWE2KerE-uKZA. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

** Friday, Sept. 17, with City Council At Large candidates Azrin Awal, Joe Macor, and Terese Tomanek. Tomanek is an incumbent. A fourth At Large candidate, Tim Meyer, withdrew shortly after the primary. The three remaining candidates are vying for two open At Large seats.

To register in advance for the Duluth City Council At Large candidate forum webinar, go to https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_8tIC7LHPQo-8dyBGomqW9g. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

** And Tuesday, Sept. 21, with City Council candidates from District 2 and District 4. District 2 includes parts of eastern and northern Duluth. Mike Mayou and Dave Zbaracki are vying to replace Councilor Joel Sipress, who chose not to seek re-election. District 4 includes Duluth Heights, Piedmont Heights, Lincoln Park, and parts of West Duluth. Incumbent Councilor Renee Van Nett is being challenged by former Councilor Howie Hanson. Hanson declined to participate in the forum.

To register in advance for the Duluth City Council Districts 2 and 4 candidate forum, go to https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_nukzOKmJRxuqEFM4AJcLYQ. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Additionally, the forums 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, encouraging respectful exchanges of viewpoints and ideas.

Our local elections aren’t as far off as they may seem. There’s still plenty of time — but the time is now — to bone up on the candidates and issues. The choices we make on Nov. 2 will help shape our city and set its direction and priorities for years to come. This is that important.

The upcoming candidate forums and plethora of election-related content in the News Tribune in the coming weeks are opportunities to be seized by all eligible voters, ensuring they can make informed choices.