Nancy Lord wants voters to know that she isn't some wild-eyed radical on the subject of drug legalization, the focus of her long-shot campaign for D.C. mayor.

In a Lord administration, legalization would not and could not occur overnight, given the federal drug laws that apply in the District. "I couldn't instantly license liquor stores to sell cocaine," she said.

But Lord, 38, makes it clear that there would be substantial changes in law enforcement tactics should she become the city's highest-ranking elected official: There would be no more undercover purchases of cocaine from suspects, no more street sweeps to nab alleged drug dealers.

In general, stopping drug trafficking would become a much lower priority for a police department reporting to Lord. At the same time, she predicts, the city would see a major decline in the number of murders and drug-driven violence.

"When the dealers see that they will be left alone unless they commit a violent act, it would change the incentives," Lord said. "I would change the focus of law enforcement. I really think that stepped-up law enforcement has caused the violence."

"Carefully controlled and regulated legalization of drugs" is only one of the provocative ideas being promoted by Lord, a physician who is carrying the banner of the Libertarian Party in her first stab at electoral politics.

Lord pledges to slash the 48,000-member District bureaucracy by 10 percent, move public assistance recipients off the government welfare rolls within two years and cut dozens of "nonsensical" regulations that she says strangle small businesses.

First to go would be the regulations and the police squad that monitor street vendors. "No wonder people are not working, they put up so many barriers," she said.

While the other, more prominent mayoral candidates don't seem to regard Lord as much of a threat, Lord said she is in the race to win. She said she has raised nearly $7,000, and hopes to raise $100,000.

"We intend to make this a very serious campaign," she said. "It will be a three-way race in the fall between myself, {Republican} Maurice Turner and whoever wins the Democratic primary."

But Lord faces daunting obstacles. According to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, only 23 Libertarians were registered to vote in the District as of February, and the party has fielded only one candidate in a city-wide local election -- Dennis Sobin, the sex entrepreneur who ran for an at-large council seat in 1988.

Nick Dunbar, national director of the Libertarian Party, acknowledged that the local party "has been inactive for a while," but said Lord "has basically gotten the local party interested and moving again."

"The District is probably one of the most socialized areas in the country, so it is probably the last place where Libertarian ideas will take hold," he said.

Lord, who grew up in Silver Spring, attended the University of Maryland as both an undergraduate and a medical sudent. She did her residency at Washington Hospital Center before moving to Chicago. There she worked for Abbot Laboratories, a major pharmaceutical company, where she wrote new drug applications for federal regulators. In recent years, she has run her own medical-legal consulting business in Washington, while also attending Georgetown University Law Center.

Her political associations include a potpourri of organizations, from the Drug Policy Foundation and the National Abortion Rights Action League to the National Rifle Association.

Lord said she has "always been a Libertarian in my belief," but said her experience as a small-business owner -- and the unemployment insurance and withholding taxes she had to pay -- cemented her distrust of government regulation.

Her experience on the campaign trail has been mixed. She sometimes has received polite applause, but on other occasions -- such as when she proposed cutting 5,000 city employees at the Shiloh Family Life Center -- she has received a chillier reception. While other candidates, such as Democrat Sharon Pratt Dixon, have called for cutting the bureaucracy, none has embraced Lord's interest in drug legalization.

But Lord remains undaunted. "People are clapping for me. I'm reaching people," she said. "I'm getting calls when I make speeches. It is very encouraging."