Few write-in candidates stand a chance in state and national elections, but for D.C. advisory neighborhood commission seats, they are a political tradition.

So while Sidney Kramer may be a long shot for county executive in Montgomery County, Donna Scheeder is probably a shoo-in on Capitol Hill.

Catherine M. Perrin discovered the strength of write-in candidates by accident two years ago. Then a Cathedral Heights resident, she learned that there was no ANC candidate for her single-member district when she went to cast her ballot, so she decided on impulse to vote for herself. Her husband voted for her too, and she won by a landslide.

"We didn't think anything of it," said Perrin, who has since stepped down because of work responsibilities. "It was sort of a lark."

Every election, about 10 percent of the candidates effectively use the write-in process to snag one of the two-year volunteer posts, according to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.

Some would-be commissioners have garnered close to 50 votes this way; others, with even fewer votes, have defeated less aggressive write-in opponents, say election officials.

Altogether, 41 seats will have no names on Tuesday's ballot. Election officials say 12 write-in candidates have even declared their candidacies with the board.

Commissioner Carolyn Bowling, of the 1800 block of Burke Street SE, said that after two terms she was tired and did not bother to submit a petition to get her name on the ballot this year.

But after she found out that Gabriel Thy, 35, was running for her seat, she changed her mind. A native of Capitol Hill, Bowling said she is certain she will beat Thy, even though his name is on the ballot and hers is not.

"It doesn't make a difference," she said. "I tried to tell him, 'You don't know what the issues are.' We're four blocks from a drug corridor and {he} doesn't know what the issues are . . . . I can't relinquish my seat to this guy."

Thy admits he knows little about the ANCs.

"I feel silly sometimes up there, like a fool," he said of his performance at a recent election forum. "I was unaware of the ANCs until this summer. And I've been a resident of D.C. for seven years."

It's not easy to vote for a write-in candidate. Voters must write the name of the candidate next to a space alloted for it on the ballot and then punch a hole next to that name just as they do for their other choices.

Elections officials said they know of no write-in candidate who has beaten a candidate whose name was on the ballot.

More often, several write-in candidates vie unknowingly for an empty position, or a longtime candidate with a firm network of backers and no ballot opposition simply encourages friends to write in his or her name. Sometimes outsiders get the word and sometimes they don't.

"Someone just mentioned it to me," said Lawrence T. Guyot Jr., a one-term commissioner in the University Heights area, who recently heard about a challenger's plans to mount a write-in campaign to unseat him. "I tried to identify the person, and I just haven't been successful in doing that."

Brian Hand, 27, of Cleveland Park in Northwest, said he decided to run after hearing that no one from his neighborhood was running. But just in case, he has decided to campaign as if he had an opponent.

"We don't know who else is out there," he said, adding that he planned to pass out fliers. "I hope for 100" votes.

Scheeder, 43, who lives on North Carolina Avenue SE, stepped forward after learning that no one else was running from her side of Capitol Hill. Now she is planning to pass out fliers and knock on doors to make sure her neighbors know she is running.

"Somebody has got to do it," Scheeder said. "I would hate to see my little area not represented by anyone."