You’ll see quite a few paid campaign advertisements in this month’s magazine. It’s the first time in 12 years of publishing community magazines that we’ve had this many political ads – and believe me, it’s not because we haven’t been trying to sell them to Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike.

What’s different this year? We’ve been trying to figure that out – particularly given the rabid state of most political advertising these days and the fact that our magazines hardly qualify as frothing-mouthed attack dogs.

One hopeful conclusion: Maybe at least some candidates are starting to understand there are other ways to attract voters’ attention than calling each other names – something we won’t allow in our pages.

It’s a sad commentary on politics when someone like me, who generally likes to know what’s going on, begins dreading political campaign months, which like the Christmas shopping season seem to start earlier and earlier each year.

In fact, I’ve already discerned from their television ads that our gubernational candidates don’t like each other much, what with each basically calling the other a criminal and all. And the senatorial candidates don’t seem like bosom buddies, either, particularly since first one and then the other keeps playing the race card – and then denouncing the other for doing so.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve already started receiving direct-mail pieces from candidates who would like my vote. Of course, the mailers early in the season begin with such promise: Lots of smiling, happy politicians, surrounded by casually dressed loved ones in wooded or lake settings, talking about everything they’ve done in life to prepare them for this particular elective office.

But if history repeats itself, soon the mailers will start discussing in more detail the “concerns” about an opponent: Maybe that candidate who was smiling and happy in last week’s mailer isn’t such a good guy after all. Maybe – the candidate implies this but doesn’t actually say it – just maybe, his or her opponent really is an Enron apologist who has a soft spot for big health insurance companies, is secretly soft on terrorism and enjoys kicking puppies just for the heck of it.

We’re all smart enough to judge candidates on our own, given a few facts; hopefully, the candidates running non-attack ads in our magazine are taking a positive step in that direction.

And as for the rest of the campaign, let’s hope it’s different this year. Because past political seasons have left no doubt why a smaller percentage of eligible voters pay attention to politics every year.

Before many of the races even start, we already know the loser: us.