Washington area voters, who gave their local governments an unexpected jolt in last week's primary elections, now are confronted by fall campaigns that invite them to further challenge the region's political establishment.

In the District, Republican Maurice T. Turner Jr. is mounting an aggressive bid to defeat heavily favored Democrat Sharon Pratt Dixon for mayor. In Maryland, traditionally liberal Montgomery County is considering a limit on property taxes, and Rep. Roy P. Dyson is fighting for his career. In Virginia, Rep. Stan Parris is engaged in a rhetorical slugfest with Alexandria Mayor James P. Moran Jr.

Across the region, a crop of vigorous challengers is fanning the flames of dissatisfaction that appeared in election results last week, hoping to build a bonfire of disgust for the status quo. They have argued that some officeholders have committed ethical lapses, that their governments are wasteful or are not working, or that one-party government is ineffective.

For the most part, these contenders are running uphill. In the District and Maryland, where Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans, most GOP candidates start at a huge disadvantage, even in an unsettled political environment.

And several analysts say that while voters have opted for some changes, there is no evidence so far they will demand massive turnover. They say primary results show that voters are dissatisfied but not enraged. But they emphasize that the political atmosphere is volatile.

"There are a lot of {incumbents} sweating it out there," said Brad Coker, president of Mason-Dixon Opinion Research, a firm that has conducted polls across the region. "There are people who are vulnerable, and there will be a couple of incumbents who are going to lose."

Ronald Walters, a political science professor at Howard University, said that a major factor in local races is "this business of being clean. Our economic situation is putting great pressure on the political system. And if people are paying higher taxes, they don't want corrupt people in charge or the money to be wasted."

Within the region, the degree of dissatisfaction differs widely among the electorates. Prince George's incumbents, for instance, fared far better than those in the District and Montgomery.

The key issues also vary. For suburban voters in Maryland and Virginia, growth and transportation are major "quality of life" concerns. In the District, Turner, a former police chief, is focusing his attention on drugs and crime, while Dixon has vowed to fight inefficiency in the city government.

Here are some of the most closely watched races in the area and the forces that are shaping them: The District

Even after being convicted of a misdemeanor drug charge and deciding not to seek reelection, Mayor Marion Barry remains at the center of District politics. He is running for an at-large D.C. Council seat and his troubled administration has shaped the race that will determine his successor.

More than in any other locality, analysts say, questions about honesty in government pervade the District's elections. Dixon did more than any other Democrat running for mayor to separate herself from Barry. Turner is stressing his "tough cop" image, and has distanced himself from the administration in which he served. Both are running essentially as outsiders and reformers.

Though Turner starts with a huge statistical disadvantage -- Democrats outnumber Republicans in the District nearly 9 to 1 -- his chances are improved by factionalism within the Democratic Party. Dixon "is not going to have a cakewalk," Walters said. "She has the issues of the moment, calling for a change in government. But he has good long-term issues in crime and drugs."

Barry said only Friday that he will seek an at-large seat even though some advisers have urged him not to. In that race he faces a potential backlash over his drug conviction and corruption within his administration.

But the field is crowded -- it includes Democrat Linda W. Cropp, Statehood Party incumbent Hilda H.M. Mason and independents Ray Browne and Jim Harvey -- and Barry's solid base of support in public opinion polls has rarely dipped below 25 percent. "Barry will get a significant number of votes, but whether he will win is uncertain," Coker said.

In at least one other District race, the campaign for congressional delegate, questions about personal ethics come into play. Eleanor Holmes Norton won the nomination after it was revealed that she and her husband had not filed District income taxes for eight years. Although she, too, is a favorite based on party registration, she must try to restore a damaged image by Election Day.

District voters will also have a chance to intervene directly in the city's policy for dealing with the homeless. Earlier this year, the D.C. Council repealed a law requiring the city to provide overnight shelter to anyone who wants it, saying the costs are huge. A proposal on the ballot would force city leaders to reinstate that law.

All seats on the D.C. Council and school board are up for grabs.


Voters across the state are electing county government officials and members of the General Assembly, but several of the most hotly contested races are in Montgomery County.

Montgomery voters will choose among four different initiatives that limit either county spending or tax collections. The affluent and relatively liberal county has historically resisted such proposals but a huge increase in property assessments this year angered many residents.

Stan Gildenhorn, a lawyer who opposes the initiatives, says that "at this particular time, it's possible a majority of county residents favors some type of tax limitation." But a broad coalition of civic groups is fighting the cuts, and politicians predict that the four competing proposals will cause confusion. Gildenhorn said, "I think there's a good chance sentiment will change before the election."

The election will also bring changes in the County Council that strengthens Montgomery's Republican minority. The council is increasing from seven to nine members, who are being elected by district for the first time. Republican voters are numerous in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase area and in the county's northern end; the GOP has nominated strong candidates for two council seats there.

In most of Maryland's races, however, the historic domination of the Democratic Party is likely to continue. Democrats such as Montgomery County executive candidate Neal Potter and Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening are expected to win easily. Few of the state's General Assembly members face tight campaigns, and most of its representatives in Congress, including Rep. Constance A. Morella (R-Montgomery), are considered shoo-ins.

The one notable exception is Democratic Rep. Dyson in eastern Maryland's 1st District, considered one of the country's most vulnerable members of Congress. Last year Dyson returned more than $10,000 in campaign contributions to defense contractors implicated in a Pentagon scandal; last month he acknowledged that, despite his hawkish stands on defense, he was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War.

His challenger, Republican Wayne T. Gilchrest, narrowly lost to Dyson two years ago, and this race is too close to call.

There will be tough campaigns for several local offices. In Anne Arundel County, where County Executive James Lighthizer is ineligible to succeed himself, Republican Robert R. Neall and Democrat Ted Sophocleus are locked in a tight race.

Prince George's County State's Attorney Alex Williams is facing a potentially acrimonious campaign against the man he ousted four years ago, Arthur "Bud" Marshall, who switched to the Republican Party to run against him. Howard County Executive Elizabeth Bobo is also seeking reelection in an area where growth and development issues are major concerns.


Because Virginia elects its state legislators and local officials in odd-numbered years, voters there have far fewer races on the ballot. Voters are expected to send most incumbent members of the House of Representatives back by comfortable margins.

But there is one potential exeception. In Virginia's 8th District, Republican Rep. Stan Parris is facing a spirited challenge from Alexandria Mayor James P. Moran Jr., a Democrat. The 8th District includes Alexandria, southern Fairfax County, eastern Prince William County and northern Stafford County.

Moran and Parris have already engaged in some old-fashioned name calling -- Parris compared Moran to Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi and Moran called Parris "a deceitful, fatuous jerk" -- and it could get more intense. Both expect to spend heavily on television commercials during October, making theirs perhaps the first Washington area congressional race in which TV ads will be an important factor.

They are also asking voters to choose between two different styles. Parris is best known for lambasting the District of Columbia, while Moran is emphasizing broader issues such as abortion rights and the environment.

"There's no question it will be a tough campaign," Moran said. "I think the voters will have a pretty clear contrast by Election Day."