Now we're to the nitty gritty: you know who will be on your May 8 ballot, how do you find out more about the candidates?
Start with a detailed internet search and broaden from there. For example, Mike Andrews is an incumbent running for sheriff in Durham County and the first name on the primary list I created yesterday, so I'll start with him. I search "Mike Andrews Durham County Sheriff 2018 election." I find a few newspaper articles, and POP, a Ballotpedia link. You should find Ballotpedia links for most incumbents; they're a reliable resource to see voting records, legislative committees they're on, who their donors are, what they've done in office. Not much turns up on that page for a sheriff, though there's some good background demographic information for Durham County.
Back to my first search, I scroll down and find a "Re-elect Sheriff Mike Andrews for Durham County Sheriff" Facebook page with recent posts that let me know it's active and likely real. I also find a link there to his campaign website, which for some reason did NOT show up on the first page of my search results. I've made a great start with a campaign website and Facebook page.
If I broaden my search to Sheriff Mike Andrews, Durham NC, I find newspaper articles that give me a sense of when he's been in the news over the past few years, including coverage of how he and his department handled the recent Confederate statue toppling in Durham.
It can take some search effort, but you usually can find at least a campaign website and/or campaign Facebook page for most candidates. Most incumbents will have a Ballotpedia page. For NCGA legislators, you can find their official legislative pages on that website using "find member info" in the top right corner if you know their name or "who represents me?" on the top bar: NCGA.
As the election approaches, you're likely to see endorsements from a variety of sources, most of them partisan or special interest. Know what you're looking at, look for specifics more than vague generalizations, be a savvy consumer.
Attend town halls, contact candidates directly via phone/email/Facebook. Ask them questions AND tell them what's most important to YOU - the environment, health care, education, fair districts, jobs, taxes, whatever it is.
Here's something to be alert for: fake campaign sites. Linda Coleman, who's running against incumbent George Holding in the 2nd US Congressional district, recently discovered that a lapsed domain name from a previous campaign had been revived and a new website posted - by a Russian! Read more here.
Look for recent posts and up-to-date information on campaign websites, check each page, as well as Facebook and Twitter links, and be alert for fishy-sounding quotes and (mis)information. If you find something that doesn't seem right, alert the candidate or the appropriate party office in your county.
We'll end our series tomorrow with some fresh approaches to learning more about where you live!