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The following editorial represents the collective opinion of editorial boards of the following papers owned by Lee Enterprises: The Southern Illinoisan, Carbondale; The Pantagraph, Bloomington; Herald & Review, Decatur; and Journal-Gazette & Times-Courier, Mattoon.

Now that the long — and we mean long — primary election cycle is over, let's take a deep breath and revisit something we've talked about before.

Negative advertising.

Political experts will tell you that it's effective, which is why it continues to dominate the airwaves in the weeks leading to an election.

We won't try to list all the examples here, but anyone who watched TV or listened to a radio in recent weeks saw or heard when the attack dogs were out.

These ads do not include any discussion of the vital issues of the day, which in Illinois would fill this space and jump to another page.

But it's important to note some of the issues that should be at the top of anyone's agenda if they want to run this state: Pension reform; workers' compensation reform; paying down $14 billion in unpaid bills; property tax relief; population loss; and our woeful record on economic development.

These and a lot of other topics are what both Gov. Bruce Rauner and his Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker — and their supporters — should focus on over the next 7 1/2 months leading to the November general election.

Both candidates will say they want to work with the other side to solve the state's problems, but the images — tearing down an opponent and the opposing party through misleading, inaccurate and sometimes offensive advertising and then pledging to work together if elected, are in conflict

There are clear differences between the two candidates on most issues. Our message to them is define your message, deliver it effectively, listen to feedback from the voters, be willing to compromise and then let the people decide which of you deserves to live in the refurbished Governor's Mansion.

The Southern did make endorsements in the primary, so it's a clean slate for both candidates. Both men have a new opportunity to convince voters that they are the better leader for our state.

In the end, it's likely wishful thinking to think that either Rauner or Pritzker will refrain from attacking each other's character as the second half of the campaign season begins.

For voters, the best antidote to this is to become informed. Study the candidates and their positions — and employ multiple sources from established media and not just from sources tied to a candidate or his ideology. If you can, go to a debate between the candidates and watch them on the campaign trail.

The purveyors of negative campaigning, we said at that time, count on voters being ill-informed, making it easier for them to accept lies, character assassination and half-truths.

That hasn't changed.

A lot is at stake and both candidates believe they have the answers, or at least some of the answers to the long list of problems noted above. They wouldn't be running otherwise — and spending more money than anyone has a right to spend.

And, then what?

Whoever wins in November still has to face a daunting task: How to get anything done in Springfield with Mike Madigan maintaining his iron grip on the General Assembly and virtually everything that goes on there.

But we'll revisit that at another time.

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