For news people, election seasons are like the playoffs and election night is our Super Bowl.

This year, The News is taking the big night to a new level. It will be all hands on deck, with a full editing, design and production staff in addition to more than 30 reporters, photographers and videographers.

As in the past, we'll have a live chat hosted by Patrick Lakamp featuring many of our staff reporters fielding readers' questions beginning at 7 p.m. and continuing well into the night.

We'll also, for the first time, be providing live, continuous video on our website throughout the night, beginning at 9 p.m.'s webcast, anchored by Brian Meyer and Phil Fairbanks, will feature analysis from our own experts as well as interviews with candidates and -- as soon as they start to roll in -- results of the vote.

"We've always been the leader when it comes to information and analysis," said Fairbanks, "but this gives us a whole new dimension, the ability to compete with TV and radio when it comes to the immediacy of live news coverage." Both he and Meyer have experience as broadcast journalists.

Among the major races are those for Erie County executive, Erie County clerk, Niagara Falls mayor and the Erie County Legislature, as well as the Buffalo Common Council and comptroller, and City Court seats.

The county executive race, between incumbent Republican Chris Collins and Democratic challenger Mark Poloncarz, is front and center.

"It's a referendum on Chris Collins, who four years ago promised to run the county like a business," said Robert J. McCarthy, The News' chief political reporter.

"It will be fun to watch because it's competitive, just as the campaign has been interesting because it's about important issues. But it's also been a horse race."

Erie County has 135,000 more Democratic voters than Republicans, but it tends to elect Republican county executives. In fact, in the 51-year history of the office, only one Democrat -- Dennis Gorski -- has held the seat.

This is also a season with big stakes for many of Buffalo's major suburbs, with supervisor posts up for grabs in Cheektowaga, West Seneca, Lancaster, Grand Island and the Town of Tonawanda. Many of those suburbs have board seats in contention as well.

Lackawanna will elect a mayor and, on the statewide level, a special election in the Assembly will determine who holds the seat vacated by Amherst Republican James P. Hayes' resignation last August.

Key Niagara County races are those for Niagara Falls mayor, Niagara County Legislature, Lockport mayor and Council, Niagara County clerk and coroner and the North Tonawanda City Council.

News Managing Editor Brian Connolly, who planned the coverage along with Deputy Managing Editor Stan Evans, explains that the size of our staff should give us a competitive edge that night -- not only with the major contests but with the smaller, hometown races that TV and radio don't pay much attention to.

"We'll have stories, columns, videos and more on the biggest races," Connolly said. "But we'll also have thorough coverage of the elections in the dozens of communities that our reporters cover week in and week out."

The News is fortunate to have the largest news-gathering staff in the region. That's always paid off in the next morning's paper. But this election night, our webcast will take advantage of that strength in real time online.

We hope you'll join us as we make a little history.