Change. Experience. Change. Experience.

We've heard these two poll-tested words so often during the past month by candidates from the presidency on down that our hair hurts.

During that time, we've hauled political hopefuls into our office, grilled them with questions that were nasty, naughty and necessary ("Where would you cut the budget? What have you ever done to justify such a leadership position? How can you prove your independence? What kind of tattoo would you get?") That's all to give you, our dear readers, a clear sense of who deserves your support as you get your ballots this week for the May 20 primary. And while all of the candidates said they represent change, or experience, or both, we tried to delve deeper.

As we survey the current political landscape, we feel an urge to reach for the Maker's Mark—a White House so venal it makes the Harding administration look like Lincoln's cabinet, a Congress unfit to stop the war, a state Legislature that's sat by while Oregon plummeted from its perch as a national innovator, and a city where "visioning" has become a verb.

Yet our process of meeting these folks did give us an audacious sense of, can we say it? Hope.

Many of the candidates were smart, dedicated, earnest and convinced us they were willing to work hard for largely poor wages.

All in all, this election has been one hell of a novel. Here's how we'd write the last chapter.