With two relatively unknown challengers, first-term D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Sr. (D-Ward 5) appears headed for an easy victory in the Nov. 6 general election, despite widespread concern among his constituents about drug trafficking in the ward.

Thomas, who easily won last month's Democratic primary, was expected to receive a tough challenge from Virgil Thompson, an activist with strong political ties citywide. But Thompson, who worked in Democrat Sharon Pratt Dixon's mayoral campaign, dropped out of the Ward 5 council race Oct. 6.

That leaves Thomas with two little-known opponents. One, Jeffrey G. Johnson, won the Republican primary nomination with one vote -- his own. The other, John H. Miles Jr., an independent, has not been visibly active in ward politics.

Despite Thomas's strong standing, he is taking nothing for granted. Thomas, who raised nearly $50,000 in the primary campaign, is still raising funds and making campaign appearances throughout the ward.

The biggest issue is drug trafficking and related crimes that have disrupted neighborhood life and filtered into some of the ward's more affluent areas.

"What is so bad about it is that it's right in front of your face," said Matthew Shannon, a lawyer who lives in the ward. "There are stray bullets flying all over the place."

Much of the drug trafficking occurs along the Rhode Island Avenue corridor, the main thoroughfare in Ward 5.

Ironically, the drug issue has helped improve Thomas's standing among many ward residents. Last fall, Thomas took heat for sponsoring a resolution honoring members of the Nation of Islam for successfully curtailing open-air drug markets in and around portions of the ward.

Thomas was criticized by many whites in the city, who consider Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan a racist demagogue. However, many ward residents, citing the police department's inability to quell the drug problem, commended Thomas's action.

"I am sure that did help him in the primary," Shannon said.

Still, Thomas, a retired federal worker, has his share of detractors. Some critics say he wields little clout on the 13-member council and has been ineffective in ensuring that the ward gets its share of city services.

For instance, many residents are frustrated that they can't get more police assigned to patrol high crime areas in their neighborhoods.

Ward 5, which has a population of more than 83,000, is one of the largest in the city. Bounded on the east by Eastern Avenue and the Anacostia River, and to the west by Second Street and Harewood Road, Ward 5 is largely residential. It runs to the south along Florida Avenue, Benning Road and New York Avenue, and to the north along Kennedy Street and Missouri Avenue.

Residents complain that there is too much substandard housing in the ward and too little transportation services for senior citizens, who comprise a large segment of its population.

"We've got houses in Ward 5 costing as much as $300,000 and we still don't have curbs" in some areas, said Robert Artisst, an Advisory Neighborhood Commission member, who lost to Thomas in the Democratic primary. Those and other concerns have heightened in recent months with news of the District's mounting fiscal crisis.

In light of the current budget deficit and projections of leaner times ahead, competition among council members for funding for their wards will likely intensify. Some Ward 5 residents worry that their area may be short-changed if they are not effectively represented.

"I think {Thomas's} efforts are probably genuine, but he's poorly equipped for the job," said Marianne Mann, a community activist.

Johnson, 35, the Republican candidate and a political newcomer, said the ward is badly in need of more commercial development.

Johnson said he would try to attract more development to the ward by offering tax incentives for businesses that develop there.

Thomas, 67, rejects suggestions that he has been a weak advocate for his ward. He noted he successfully campaigned to close the Capitol City Inn, a shelter for the homeless that became an eyesore and one of the city's most troublesome spots. Thomas said he also helped get $3 million in city funding for development of a recreation center on Montana Avenue, another drug-infested area. "We've been doing a good job with constituent services," he said.

Thomas said he is working to strengthen the city's drug laws and to expand citizen and police drug patrols in the ward. He said he expects to chair the council's Public Works Committee next year and increase his influence.

"I'll be able to acquire a chairmanship, and that's where the real dealing is done," he said.

Thomas was elected to the council in 1986, when he defeated incumbent William Spaulding.

Miles could not be reached for comment and declined to respond to a Washington Post candidates' questionnaire.