In 1977, while a student at Eastern Kentucky University, I worked in my first political campaign. The candidate was Barry Caldwell, and he was running in a primary for a state legislative seat. Caldwell was a student at Northern Kentucky University’s Chase College of Law and was not that much older than me.

With a small band of inexperienced, but loyal, campaign workers, we won the primary but lost in the general election by a mere 16 votes. Caldwell won two years later.

Over the next 30 years, election days became ritualistic and my favorite holiday. I signed up for more political campaigns than I care to remember.

Many things changed in Northern Kentucky over my three decades of hacking. Possibly the biggest political change for our region is our significance in state politics.

When I started in politics, there was little chance of a Northern Kentucky candidate winning a statewide election. Since then, Jim Bunning and Trey Grayson have both done it twice.

Northern Kentuckians have played key roles in the administrations of several governors. Our elected legislators have held leadership positions in both chambers of the General Assembly. Candidates from other parts of the Commonwealth look to Northern Kentucky as a place they need to win in order to capture election success, especially now, as primary election season is upon us. The general election will follow closely.

Like presidential wannabes who flock to Iowa every four years to kick off the primary season, we’re going to be hit with a steady flow of people knocking on our doors to ask us for the privilege of serving in statewide offices. Let’s think long and hard about what we want to ask them before they leave our front porch.

Here are the four essential questions that I have taped to my door frame for when candidates come a callin.’

Where is Rabbit Hash? What? Never heard of it? Come back when you know more about Northern Kentucky.

Exactly what do you intend to do to ensure that the Brent Spence Bridge is replaced in my lifetime? Tell me that the bridge is a federal issue and I’ll slam the door in your face. Tell me that you’ll start putting aside budget funds to pay the state’s share of a replacement and we can move on to the next question.

While we’re talking money … cut and slash all you want. But now tell me how you will prioritize state spending to draw jobs to Northern Kentucky. Your answer better understand that we’ve been the economic engine that has driven the state over the last decade, and we’ll be the region that leads the Commonwealth out of the recession.

How do you eat your goetta? No, it’s not a German style of rabbit hash. How a person likes their goetta says a lot about them. If you’ve never had it before, stop by the Colonial Cottage in Erlanger the next time you’re in town and they’ll give you lessons.

Happy election day! As they say in Chicago … vote early and vote often!