"Previous years seem to have been more spirited," said council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5), who was visiting Backus Middle School in Northeast in the city's largest precinct. "I don't see the poll workers aggressively going after voters. Everybody is kind of conceding that everybody has their minds made up, and they're letting voters just walk on by."
Still, elections officials seemed to have difficulty tabulating the results. At midnight -- four hours after the polls closed -- the elections board could not say what percentage of votes had been counted or provide a final tally. Elections officials said it was a routine delay caused by the time-consuming task of merging results from two types of ballots. They promised to release final results by 12:30 a.m. but failed to do so.
While awaiting final numbers, Brazil declined to concede defeat, but he acknowledged that the trends were not good. He said he was "shocked" at the scale of Allen's loss, in particular.
"There is something going on that's beneath the surface, that's almost not rational," Brazil said as somber supporters streamed away from his party at Tunnicliff's Tavern. "But I think that's the will of the voters and the citizens, and that's the way our system works."
Brazil, who has served on the council since 1990, credited Brown's work ethic but otherwise said he was proud of his campaign and his career. "It can't be the issues. It can't be the record or the results," he said. "I'm not sure I could have worked any harder."
The race was the nastiest of the season as Brazil relentlessly attacked Brown, who was a Commerce Department official during the Clinton administration. Brazil accused Brown in recent weeks of failing to vote in local and national elections and of lying about his résumé and said Brown had close ties to Barry.
Yesterday, the two candidates appeared -- briefly and uneasily -- at the same time outside St. Columba's Episcopal Church, a Ward 3 polling place near Tenleytown. Brazil defended his campaign strategy, saying Brown had "deliberately misled the voters" about his qualifications for office.
Brown, for his part, said the negative remarks "are not hurting me at all." And the returns seemed to prove him right. By day's end, he was celebrating with his wife, his two young children and 200 chanting supporters at a restaurant in the transitional H Street corridor in Northeast Washington.
"We started with a vision. That vision will go far," Brown said. "We're going to focus on education. We're going to focus on health care. We're going to focus on affordable housing. We're going to focus on our neighborhoods -- everyday issues that people care about."
Brown, who lives in Ward 7, told supporters that "we made history tonight" because citywide voters for the first time "elected an at-large council member from east of the river."
In Ward 7, Chavous, who was first elected in 1992, lost decisively to Gray, a former head of the D.C. Department of Human Services. Chavous campaigned on his record of fighting for improvement in city schools and bringing better services and economic development to the ward, including two new schools and the planned redevelopment of the Skyland shopping mall.
But Gray and some community activists said Chavous had lost touch with ward residents. Even some Chavous supporters said they were not satisfied with his work.
At the Senior Wellness Center in the Hillcrest neighborhood, community activist Kathy Chamberlain cast votes for Chavous and Brazil. But she did so, she said, only because she wasn't impressed by the challengers.
"Please don't write that I am happy with the current leadership," she told a reporter.