For better or worse, Donald Trump has changed, arguably forever, how we view politics in America. Perhaps even to his credit, the president has made us aware of conflicts of interest in the D.C. “swamp” and among politicians everywhere who conspire to enrich or bestow favors on their families, friends and political donors — a problem, alas, that Trump seems all too complicit in, making him unlikely to be the one who “drains” any swamp of corruption and self-interest. Sad.

Amidst all this upheaval, damning stereotypes thrive. If local columnist Peggy Hill’s stinging April 11 piece in the Trib branding Democrats the party of anti-Christian, anti-gun and pro-abortion sentiments is legitimate, then so is, say, the fast-emerging portrait of Republicans as the party of traitors, pedophiles and demagogues. But dare we suggest such stereotypes on both accounts are wide of the mark? Dare we look deeper with open minds? Dare we examine each individual candidate, consider his or her qualifications and gauge his or her character, independent of party prism or ideological litmus test?

With talk radio working overtime to mislead in what can only be labeled “news porn” and too many citizens readily embracing fake news whenever it suits their close-minded purposes, the wary voter who prides himself or herself on being truly informed is increasingly overwhelmed, especially with so much rhetoric, so few reliable facts. No wonder filings for county and state offices in the 2018 elections — published in the Trib this week — must seem bewildering, especially when the polarizing 2016 presidential race seems hardly ended.

Even so, there is much to ascertain and scrutinize, including a local district attorney’s office drowning in allegations of corruption and incompetence — and three challengers (one from each main party plus an independent) who would chart a new course for the DA’s office. And the approaching retirement of a revered, longtime Democratic county commissioner at term’s end has drawn a field of five seeking to succeed him — two Democrats and three Republicans.

Two Democrats vie for the opportunity to run against Republican Congressman Bill Flores, who seeks election to his fifth term; two more compete to take on Republican state Rep. Kyle Kacal, whose district includes part of McLennan County; and a local Democrat seeks to unseat popular state Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson. And two Republicans this spring will almost certainly decide the Precinct 4 county commissioner’s race, one of them the respected incumbent.

In sizing up the candidates in selected interviews ahead of the March 6 primary election as well as the Nov. 6 general election, the vow of the Trib editorial board is to always consider the greater public good. We seek to judge whether candidates’ dedication goes toward embracing foundational principles, understanding controversial issues in all their complexity, offering reasonable solutions, guaranteeing transparency and striving for real consensus. We hope we can be a useful resource for fellow voters seeking to make judgments of their own.