"When I came on as this young Turk, we had murders that were out of hand, red ink, tax and spend, government was totally bloated and totally inefficient. And we were able to turn the government around," Brazil said.
Still, Brazil has been widely criticized for a certain lack of engagement. A lawyer who views his $92,000-a-year council post as a part-time job, Brazil is often late to his own meetings. And although he chairs the important Economic Development Committee, he is better known for rubber-stamping the agenda of Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) than pushing his own initiatives. Of six council members seeking reelection, only Brazil received the mayor's endorsement.
D.C. Council member Harold Brazil (D-At Large) talks with Audrey Larkins during a campaign stop at a senior citizens home in Northeast Washington last month.
(Kevin Clark -- The Washington Post)
During the spring, The Washington Post reported that Brazil had used council staff members to assist his law practice and that a woman with whom he had a personal relationship received a big raise and a new city job.
Brazil has said that he did nothing to help the woman win a promotion and that his staffers showed up on their own to help him in court. As for working two jobs, Brazil says he has spent his entire life working hard.
"The council is part time, but I put that first and make my law firm part time," he said. "But the most important thing is not how much time you put in. It's the results. And there's a lot of results."
Brazil argues that he faces two challengers with no experience: Sam Brooks, 24, is a recent college graduate who has turned in impressive performances at candidate forums. But Brooks has little money and virtually no campaign organization and lives with his parents.
And then there is Brown.
He is the son of a longtime D.C. Democratic strategist and worked as an assistant manager at Wal-Mart and as a banker before President Bill Clinton tapped him to serve in the U.S. Commerce Department. After the Democrats lost the White House, Brown became president of the Maryland-D.C. Minority Supplier Development Council, a private nonprofit organization that matches minority-owned businesses with major corporations.
As a candidate, Brown has had chronic problems with consistency, tending to bend his answers to please his audience. At a recent forum in Tenleytown, for example, Brown indicated that he is opposed to high-density development near the Tenleytown Metro station and along upper Wisconsin Avenue, where high-powered community groups are battling against 10-story office towers. But Brown's Web site explicitly endorses high-density development around major transit centers.
Brazil has hammered at Brown's shifting positions, and Brown has had trouble responding. He fixed a flier that erroneously stated he had graduated from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College to make clear that he had, in fact, attended only a short program for minority executives.
And he has offered an array of explanations for his failure to vote regularly when he was in college in Alabama and Baltimore, when he lived in Virginia and when he moved to the District's Hillcrest neighborhood in Ward 7 in the fall of 2002. The latest is a flat-out mea culpa.
"Did I vote in every single election? No, and that's wrong," he said. "I don't duck it. I didn't vote every time I had an opportunity, and that wasn't right."
Despite those problems, Brown has run a tireless campaign, effectively positioning himself as a plausible alternative for voters in search of a fresh face and new ideas.
For some voters, that seems to be enough.
On a recent evening, Ward 5 resident Stephen Miller said that he had to drive downtown to find a decent Italian restaurant and that Brazil shares the blame.
"Harold is focused too much on the large business community at the expense of the neighborhoods," Miller said. As for Brown, "I think he's a fresh voice in an otherwise pretty stale environment."