Hours before last Friday's deadline for filing to run in the city's advisory neighborhood commission elections in November, more than 200 commissioner hopefuls lined up in the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics to submit their paperwork.
By the 5 p.m. cutoff, only 41 of the city's 373 seats still had no candidates, roughly the same number as in past elections, according to election officials.
A week earlier, two-thirds of the ANC seats had no candidates. Observers had blamed the feverish pitch of the city's primaries earlier this week for the initially lackluster turnout of candidates.
Unique to this city, the grass-roots commissions advise the D.C. Council and its appointed boards on everything from neighborhood liquor licenses and bus routes to the impact of legislative and land-use proposals on their communities.
Under the city's Home Rule Charter, which established that one ANC seat would represent about 2,000 registered voters, the unpaid commissioners' opinions must be given great weight in city policies affecting neighborhoods.
This year, 409 city residents have officially tossed their hats into the political arena, seven more than in 1988. But this year, more appear aligned to unseat whole commissions or certain candidates because of their past votes.
A key contest is in Foggy Bottom, where a group calling itself Citizens for a Responsive ANC 2A is running a slate of six candidates. Their main concern, group members say, is that the current commissioners failed to alert them as soon as they knew about a city plan to install seven trailers in their neighborhood to house homeless men.
"We're not going to put up with the neglect of the community that we've experienced with five of the present six commissioners," Kerry H. Stowell said.
In Adams-Morgan, where the ANC has championed restrictions on the number of new restaurants and forged new restrictions on liquor license applicants, several restaurateurs and merchants are joining forces to back a pro-business slate.
"The demands have been increasing notoriously. They have been escalating," said Robert Alvarez, an owner of Cafe Atlantico, who says his group is keeping its preferences under wraps for fear of retaliation against its own license requests.
Again this year, many Southeast Washington neighborhoods have few official ANC candidates. Ward 8, which has 30 ANC seats, has candidates for only 14 seats.
All five seats on the commission for the Garfield and Douglas Heights area are up for grabs.
Three seats in ANC 8E in Belleview, Congress Heights and Washington Highlands remain vacant, as do three seats in ANC 8D in the far Southwest and Southeast neighborhoods.
"A lot of people in our community are working two jobs," said Albert Pearsall III, a one-term commissioner in Anacostia. "It's very difficult." But ANC 4A around Shepherd Park, Brightwood and Columbia Village has 12 candidates running for seven seats, and in Fairlawn five residents are vying for the seat vacated after two terms by commissioner James A. Mosley.
Mosley said that if he had known the competition would be this fierce, he would have stayed in the race. "There's nothing like having a hotly contested ANC battle," he said. "I like that kind of thing."