Politics can be very funny — despite all the ugliness it sometimes brings to everyone, be it a candidate or a voter.

However, I was especially pleased to see the good that came out of the recent photograph of Sen. Bernie Sanders sitting at the inauguration with his mask and mittens — waiting for the festivities to start.

Many people quickly jumped on the bandwagon to circulate the picture and in a light-hearted way laughed at Sanders' picture.

He quickly turned that laughter to money — for charity.

Sanders is obviously a self-confident man, who has no problems with the good-natured ribbing. He is quoted as saying he was just trying to keep warm with the special mittens he had received as a gift. He quickly made sweatshirts and other items — complete with the picture of him at the inauguration — available for purchase.

And, the proceeds are all going to various charity organizations in his home state of Vermont! At last total, it was more than $1.5 million.

Looking at it, perhaps other governmental figures could follow his example — being confident enough to turn a lighter moment into something that benefits many people — without costing taxpayers a dime!

• • •

In the past, we have seen elected officials sitting on a "dunk tank" waiting to be dunked or have a pie thrown at them.

Unfortunately, for some, those throwing the balls at the official often were throwing them in a mean-spirited way, which took the fun out of it.

But the elected officials were very calm and didn't get upset. Those acts also were for charity.

But, the next year, some of those officials passed on the chance for a repeat performance.

• • •

In another week, voters might soon learn who may be seeking election in 2021.

The first day to circulate nominating petitions is Feb. 16. That is when many names will soon be made public.

One candidate, Crawford County District Attorney Francis Schultz, has already announced he will seek the office of Crawford County Judge.

Only two other county offices are up for election this year — county treasurer and county clerk of courts.

This year is a local election year, which means most candidates will be from cities, boroughs and townships. It also means local election boards and school boards will be on the ballot.

In effect, for those who don't like what the elected officials are doing, they can run for the office by gathering the needed number of names on petitions and getting their names on the ballot. If successful, they then could help make decisions.

There are rules regarding the process and potential candidates would be wise to learn them and not risk having the petitions tossed.

The last day to file the petitions is March 9.

• • •

Although this is not a statewide election, there will be candidates for a statewide office — Judge of the Supreme Court. There will be on vacancy. Two judges on the state Superior Court — both Democrats — have announced their plans to seek their party nominations.

So far, I've seen no Republican names.

•  • •

The ballot for May 18 is expected to be longer than usual since there are so many local positions. In addition, there will be several constitutional amendment questions for voters to decide.

If the amendments pass by a majority, the constitution would be amended.

One question is whether to elect the statewide judge from regions — rather than the whole state.

Another would be to have the lieutenant governor run as a team with the gubernatorial candidate. As you may know, currently the two top state positions run separately in the primary and then as a team in the fall.

Others questions are still pending.

Based on my experience, these questions often mean longer times for voters as they study the questions before voting yes or no.

It would be a good decision if voters studied the issues (and questions) in advance — as well as learn the candidates — so voting itself would be quicker.

• • •

Of course, you can always get a mail-in ballot and vote from the comfort of your own home — and take as much time as you want. The key, of course, is to be sure you get the ballots returned on time!

The primary is May 18, leaving plenty of time to do research and learn what you can about the issues and the candidates.

Jane Smith is a retired Meadville Tribune reporter who specialized in covering government and politics.

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