In case you haven't heard — and even the candidates say it doesn't seem to have registered with many people yet — there's an election next Tuesday.

On Sept. 14, Republicans and Democrats, along with independents, will go to the polls to select the major-party candidates in several statewide, regional and legislative races.

Here in the Merrimack Valley, the most-watched primary contest is the race to select a Republican challenger to face off against incumbent Democratic Congresswoman Niki Tsongas in the 5th District. The potential challengers include: Jon Golnik of Carlisle, Sam Meas of Haverhill, Tom Weaver of Westford and Bob Shapiro of Andover.

Voters in North Andover and points east have a different congressional race to consider. In the 6th District, the Republican side pits Bill Hudak of Boxford against Robert McCarthy of Saugus for the right to take on incumbent U.S. Rep. John Tierney, D-Salem, in November.

Republicans this cycle have done a good job recruiting candidates for the region's state House and Senate seats. Ironically in a state and region dominated by Democrats, two incumbents who face neither a primary nor general election challenge (Sen. Bruce Tarr of Gloucester and Rep. Brad Hill of Ipswich) are Republicans.

One well fought local race is for the 2nd Essex and Middlesex state Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Sue Tucker. On the Democratic side, Barry Finegold, Debra Silberstein and Jack Wilson are competing for the nomination. Republican contestants are Patrick Rahilly and Jamison Tomasek.

Statewide, there are contests for both the Democratic and Republican nominations for state auditor, as well as a race for the Democratic nomination for treasurer.

In New Hampshire, there are plenty of races. There will be primary contests for governor, U.S. senator, both congressional districts and numerous local races.

Four Republicans are competing for a chance at the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Judd Gregg. They are: Kelly Ayotte, Jim Bender, Bill Binnie and Ovide Lamontagne. The winner will face off against Democrat Paul Hodes, who is leaving a House seat to run for Senate.

There are plenty of contests to consider in both states. There's reason for all, regardless of political stripe or place of residence, to go to the polls next Tuesday. Besides, it's good practice for the general election on Nov. 2.

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