If you're looking for Harold Brazil's only opponent on the ballot in the Ward 6 D.C. Council race, you'll have to look a little south -- south to Florida, that is.
"I'm on vacation," said R. Bradford McMahon, who won the right to oppose Democratic nominee Brazil in Tuesday's election by writing in his own name as the D.C. Statehood candidate on the primary ballot.
And, by the way, if you're looking to volunteer, McMahon said please wait until this weekend, when he hoped to return to the District -- if he could get a seven-day advance purchase airline ticket. His former roommate, who takes calls directed from a disconnected number listed by McMahon on his campaign forms, offered different advice.
"He's moved to Florida," said Theresa Griffith.
Not so, McMahon said, but it doesn't really matter, anyway. "I understand the political realities," said the 33-year-old freelance writer who prefers to be called Brad. "Brazil is going to win."
Any more fighting words from McMahon? "I think he's going to be a great council member. I support him totally."
And so it goes in Ward 6, the city's most diverse electoral district, spanning parts of Northeast and Southeast, where a win in the Democratic primary is tantamount to victory in the general election.
While other candidates may be struggling to squeeze hands and get a few minutes of sleep, Brazil, 41, is spending a good chunk of his time getting a head start on the council job.
He's met with the deputy police chiefs. He's listened to the concerns of advisory neighborhood commissions. He's heading the coalition trying to stop the closing of the emergency room at Capitol Hill Hospital. And he's conferred with D.C. Council member John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2), who is running for council chairman.
It wasn't always so. Until Brazil narrowly upset four-term council member Nadine P. Winter in the Democratic primary Sept. 11, the prosecutor-turned-congressional aide-turned-lobbyist was madly at work going door to door to overcome his low name recognition.
Brazil gave up his job in March as a lobbyist for Potomac Electric Power Co. to devote all his attention to trying to unseat Winter, the ward's representative since the advent of home rule in 1974.
"I ran into him at least three or four times a week," said Cecile Shure, a former ANC commissioner and vice president of the ward's Democratic Party. "He was like an infection."
Although Brazil had not been active in ward politics, he was able to amass early on the kind of campaign staff and supporters most candidates take several campaigns to acquire.
Bob Boyd, the Ward 6 school board member, was one of Brazil's first supporters. Robert Robinson, a former top aide to Mayor Marion Barry, signed on as campaign manager, while Ted Gay, a former D.C. Democratic State Committee chairman, became campaign chairman. The area's wealthy real estate and development concerns soon followed.
Many supporters believed that the right candidate could tap into what they saw as widespread feelings of discontent among the professional denizens of the ward. Brazil seemed to be the right man.
"Harold has a very good style," said longtime ward activist Howard Croft, pointing out the contrast to what many believed was Winter's confrontational stances. "Harold is very warm and very open. He's very thoughtful and he reaches out."
On primary day, instincts became reality and Brazil squeaked by with 639 more votes than Winter. Brazil's support came primarily from the Capitol Hill areas west of the Anacostia River, while Winter tallied larger votes east of the river. But Brazil showed well enough in those neighborhoods that went to Winter to carry the ward.
Since primary day, Brazil has returned frequently to Anacostia and says now that bringing economic development to that area will be one of his prime concerns.
During an interview in his campaign office this week, Brazil articulated some of his primary concerns once he joins the council. Crime and drug trafficking remain the most pressing issues, he said, and once elected he would introduce legislation requiring a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole for those convicted of first-degree murder.
Saying he'd like a spot on the council's Human Services Committee, Brazil said he would seek a review of the city's health care provisions. A member of the board of D.C. General Hospital, Brazil says he eventually would like to see universal health insurance available to all D.C. residents. For the present, he plans to consider proposals to provide better funding for the city's clinics and expand the availability of Medicaid.
Brazil at one time supported Referendum 005, to rescind council action that sharply reduced emergency shelter benefits for the homeless. Now, Brazil says only that he would support the voters' wishes.
And the answer to the one question on many people's minds?
"No new taxes," he said. And he'll try to keep the Redskins here too.