It's hard to believe that in 18 days, Fairfield voters will go to the polls to make one major decision that will map a course for the town for the next four years and many lesser but still significant choices about policy-makers.

It's hard to believe because it has been a very quiet, polite campaign season -- a September and now nearly a full October virtually devoid of conflict or controversy involving anyone on the ballot.

We know Election Day is coming because of the lawn signs -- red, white and blue are popular; who would have thunk it? -- and the letters to the editor extolling the virtues, if not the positions, of Candidates X, Y and Z, most often in glittering generalities.

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Editorial

But there has been little passion and precious few public clashes to remind us that Nov. 8 is fast approaching.

With Democrat Michael Tetreau, the Republican Robert Billitto and Independent Hugh Dolan vying for the first selectman's job, campaigning for the top spot has been gentlemanly.

This autumn has witnessed controversy, even outrage. But that continues to be generated not by passionate campaign rhetoric but by The Public Works Project From Hell -- aka the Metro Center train station -- and the actions of politicians past.

Tetreau, the Democratic interim first selectman, has had the advantage of filling the office for four months. He has managed the train station debacle and pushed through funding to cover massive cost overruns, and he benefitted from the opportunity to appear in charge and on top of things during and after Tropical Storm Irene.

Bellitto, the Republican vice chairman of the finance board, has quietly pressed his "keep Fairfield affordable" and "we need more professional leadership" messages in face-to-face and telephone chats with voters.

Dolan, an 11th-hour entrant in the GOP race, is plodding on with his third-party platform of cutting spending and taxes. Most observers agree his quest is the longest of long shots.

In appearances together, the three have been cordial, and during a forum put on by the Fairfield Rotary Club Monday, they seemed to agree more than disagree.

Bellitto has leveled the campaign's only broadside. In his seat on the finance board, the Republican nominee voted against an allocation sought by Tetreau to cover the Metro Center overruns. Then he ripped Tetreau because, he said, there was "no formal budget, no cost breakdown, no itemized scope of work to be completed, and no input or analysis from the newly hired project manager" in requesting the extra money to complete the depot project.

How do you separate the two on issues? When they served together on the finance board, their voting records were remarkably similar. An analysis of their votes during the previous two years by The Fairfield Citizen showed they voted the same far more often than not.

As for separation between the two, Bellitto says one has to consider not only the vote but what was said in discussion and justification for the vote. Tetreau says voters must compare candidates' experience and skill sets.

But where do they disagree? What's wrong with the other's platform?

In a collegial arena, candidates can criticize their opponents' positions without criticizing the person. They can accentuate how they differ without being critical at all.

Let's hope Tetreau and Bellitto over the next two weeks define their differences so voters have clear choices. Four years is nice job security for voters to hand out.