Enez Martin has been crisscrossing her Northeast neighborhood of Woodridge for the past six weeks knocking on doors and stopping passers-by in her campaign for reelection to the Woodridge Advisory Neighborhood Commission.
"I'm your ANC commissioner, and I need your vote on Nov. 6," she called to a scruffy man bustling along Rhode Island Avenue NE one morning last week. He gave her a wary look and stuffed her ANC business card in his back pocket.
Martin's opponent, Horace M. Roberts Sr., whom she unseated by a 20-vote margin in the last election, is waging much the same kind of grass-roots campaign in the quiet, predominately residential area.
In other ANC races across the city, candidates say they will campaign on street corners and distribute campaign flyers during this last weekend before Tuesday's general election.
Such widespread campaigning is virtually unprecedented among ANC contenders and results from the record number of candidates vying for seats. Half of the 323 races have more than one candidate in the aftermath of redistricting and an information campaign by the board of elections to educate residents about the commissions.
The city's 37 ANCs, were created to give residents a chance to comment on governmental decisions that affect their communities. Each commissioner serves without pay and represents about 2,000 residents.
Some candidates said they started campaigning this summer, while others said they have saved all their energy for this last week before the Nov. 6 election.
"I figure it's the last race on the ballot, so it's important to get to the people the last thing before they vote," said Steven Inkellis, a candidate for a seat on the American University Park ANC, who intends to distribute flyers to his neighbors this weekend. Inkellis is running against Sharon Crowell and Erling Hansen, who started their campaigns in October.
In Southwest, candidate Loretta Laverne Reeves said she and her campaign workers will stand on street corners this weekend handing out red and white campaign buttons to remind voters to vote for her in her race against Michael D. Foley. Foley could not be reached for comment.
Willie Vasquez, former director of the city's Office of Latino Affairs, said that in addition to distributing campaign flyers, he intends to organize a car pool to get his senior citizen supporters to the polls and to hang giant streamers from lampposts along some neighborhood streets on election day.
Vasquez is running against John Jones, who could not be reached for comment.
"It's all name recognition, and most people know me," said incumbent James F. Olney, who is facing opposition for the first time since he was elected to the Minnesota-Benning ANC in Northeast in 1977.
"I figure if they can call me at 8 a.m. on Sunday to get something done, they should be able to vote for me at the polls," he said of his race against Annie O. Baylous, who could not be contacted.
In the Congress Heights section of Anacostia, name recognition has turned into a complicated affair because two of the three candidates have the same last name. Hattie Browne is running against Laurene Browne, the wife of incumbent Willie Browne, who decided not to seek reelection. To make matters worse, the two candidates Browne live on the same block of Congress Street SE.
Laurene Browne, a retired school counselor in the community, is well known in the area, but primarily to parents and former students by her professional name, "Mrs. Browne." Meanwhile, Hattie Browne is known to friends and associates by her middle name, Ruth. "If it weren't for our having the same name and people getting confused, I probably wouldn't even put out flyers," said Laurene Browne.
The third person in the race, Darion Washington, said the confusion will benefit her.
"I think it's going to be an advantage," Washington said. "But I think it has more to do with their living on the same street. They're well known around there, but I live a couple of blocks away over here and from working as the office manager until a few months ago in the ANC office and all . . . people know me. There won't be any confusion."
Across town on Capitol Hill, ANC aspirant Paul Sinderbrand, who is waging a heated race against incumbents Flossie A. Lee and L. Leonard Hacker, said he objected to ANC candidates winning on the basis of posters, buttons or bumper stickers.
"I've tried to stay low-key . . . sticking strictly to the issues," he said. " . . . We still have too much crime . . . . We still don't have enough city services, and we have residential parking zones around here that are not enforced."
The ANC hopefuls said their campaign would probably cost no more than $50 to $100, although incumbent Lorenzo Alton says he is spending $250 of his own money for posters and sample ballots in his race to beat Henry V.S. Thomas, a civic activist. The men are vying for a seat on the Northwest Boundary ANC, located east of Petworth.
John Wagley, a political consultant who is running unopposed for a seat on the Georgetown ANC, said he has told people jokingly that the ANC race is the most important race in the city this year.
"Actually, I think it can have a tremendous effect on people's lives . . . . And the reason people run is that they see a chance to get their ideas put into effect, which is a lot more than many national politicians get," he said.