When comparing candidates to cicadas, politicians are often louder and have a longer shelf life.

With the presidential election to be held on Nov. 2, it will soon be time to vote for president, U.S. Senator and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The candidates will be everywhere, long past when the cicadas sink back into the ground for a 17-year hiatus.

U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-6) visited Phoenixville three times last week. His opponent, Democrat Lois Murphy was in the area twice.

U.S. Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D-13) is running against four term incumbent Arlen Specter and stopped by the area twice last week during a congressional recess.

Same old story - the candidates are looking for money and votes. That's your vote and your money.

Never will you have such a chance to see a standing president so close to home as will likely be possible in the next few months. There's no guarantee, but it's quite likely that President Bush will visit Southeastern Pennsylvania several times before election day.

Presidential candidate and Senator John Kerry should also be a regular visitor to the area.

You probably won't have the access to Bush that you will have with other candidates.

Visit a rally or an event that Gerlach, Murphy, Hoeffel or Specter attends and if you're lucky you might be able to shake the candidates' hands and look 'em right in the eye. If time permits, you might get to ask a question.

While I don't like to judge a book by its cover, there is something to be said for pressing the flesh with a candidate.

Rockets might go off or you might develop a true disliking for the person. Just hear them out. Listen to the message and develop an opinion. Regardless, listen to them speak.

Become part of the process long in advance of the final bell.

Every candidate has an agenda and the good ones have extensive Web sites that will march you through an abundance of information.

Some of it is rhetoric, though with a bit of reading, help in narrowing down the options becomes easier.

Watch those television commercials. The newspapers are already filling up with letters to the editor, voting records and candidate promises. Tune into the news shows and try to get more than sound bites.

Try not to make a vote against, but rather in favor of a candidate.

Become part of the process. The presidential election drags out the voters and those races for congress and senator will likely make as much, if not more difference than who becomes president, in the long run for area residents.

Voting is a gift. Cradle and cherish the process by making several well-considered decisions. It's your right.

Start the voting and research process today. Make decisions that you feel comfortable with. Consider party affiliation, but pick from the heart and mind with the issues guiding your choices.

Most of all, enjoy that moment when you vote. Appreciate that your vote counts the same as the vote of any candidate. Then enjoy the relative calm on November 3, when business returns to usual.

Love them or hate them, elections are a never-ending process. It will certainly take less than 17 years for the politicians to again make so much noise.

Bill Rettew, Jr. may be contacted at brettew@phoenixvillenews.com

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