Of the 19 candidates running for the D.C. Council in Tuesday's general election, Jenefer Ellingston would be first to tell you that her mission goes far beyond trying to win the Ward 6 seat.
"What I'm really doing is I'm trying to get the Statehood Green Party into the political arena as a recognized third party," Ellingston said. "I'm not doing this with joy in my heart. I couldn't find another Statehood Green Party member in Ward 6 who was willing to run."
Although she hopes to win the council seat held by Democrat Sharon Ambrose, who is seeking a second, full term, Ellingston's sentiment represents what some candidates describe as the need to break the Democratic Party's hold on District residents.
The Statehood Green Party has 4,679 members, or 1.3 percent of the city's 335,608 voters, and the Republican Party has 26,963, or 7.6 percent. There are 52,547 voters, or 14.8 percent, registered as Independents, with other minor parties accounting for 1,483 voters, or 0.4 percent of the electorate.
There was little excitement during the September primary when more than half of the council's 13 members ran for reelection, and little has changed over the past few weeks.
One difference is that Council Chairman Linda Cropp, who is running for a second four-year term and was unopposed during the primary, is facing a challenge from Statehood Green Party member Debby Hanrahan. In addition to Cropp's seat, two of four at-large seats are being contested, as are seats representing Wards 1, 3, 5 and 6.
All council incumbents won their party primaries comfortably, and some challengers say they feel compelled to run so voters will have an alternative.
In Ward 3, Kathy Patterson, a frequent critic of the current administration, easily won her Democratic primary over Erik Gaull. On Tuesday, she will face Republican Eric Rojo, who has an international business consulting company.
He describes Patterson as a "respectable" council member who works hard.
"I have no illusions of being able to defeat her easily, but in my life I have never been involved in anything I have no intentions of winning," Rojo said.
Rojo, who was born in Mexico and moved to the Washington area in 1984, has lived in Ward 3 for 14 years. This is his first run for public office.
"I'm not running against Kathy Patterson," he said. "I'm running to give Ward 3 and the city a two-party system where elections are not the result of the primaries."
Edward Chico Troy, a Statehood Green Party candidate challenging Ward 1 council member Jim Graham, said he feels that voters in the District don't look beyond the Democratic Party.
"The understanding that if you want to get into office, you have to run as a Democrat is very common," said Troy, an account executive. "A lot of people don't examine where the Democratic Party is today."
Troy said his platform focuses on people vs. development, which he feels is an issue in Ward 1, where low-income families are mixed with newer, more affluent residents. Troy moved to Ward 1 three years ago.
"People don't want to feel like they're being forced out by an economic crowbar," Troy said. "The process taking place right now is poor people are getting moved out of Ward 1 and the city in general."
The Ward 5 council seat, held by Democrat Vincent Orange, has two challengers -- Gail Dixon of the Statehood Green Party and Edward Henry Wolterbeek, a Republican.
The race that has drawn the most opposition is for the at-large council seats held by Republican David A. Catania and Democrat Phil Mendelson. All five Independents and one candidate each from the Statehood Green, Republican and Democratic parties are vying for those seats. The two top vote-getters will win the election.
In addition to the incumbents, the candidates are Statehood Green Party nominee Michele Tingling-Clemmons and independent candidates Chris Ray, Ahmad Braxton-Jones, Kweku Toure, A.D. "Tony" Dominguez and Eugene Dewitt Kinlow.
Although he doesn't expect many new faces on the council after the election, Troy said the diverse group of candidates provokes a healthy debate over the direction the city is going.
"This is a fantastic thing to do for anyone who cares about his neighborhood, city and country," Troy said. "The sun will rise no matter who wins."