The fate of former mayor Marion Barry's bid for a political comeback will be decided today when District voters cast ballots in the primary election for D.C. Council seats. Two other council contests also have attracted widespread attention.

Barry, who was mayor for 16 years and is one of the city's best-known and most controversial political figures, is trying to wrest the Democratic nomination for the Ward 8 council seat from incumbent Sandy Allen, who was once his campaign manager.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Only residents who have registered as Democrats, Republicans or members of the D.C. Statehood Green Party are eligible to vote in their respective parties' primaries.

Allen, who was elected to the council in 1996, has called herself a "committed, open and accessible" fourth-generation Washingtonian.

Barry, who works as a consultant to an investment banking firm, said he possesses a "gift of vision and courageous leadership" that none of the other candidates has. Four other people are on the Ward 8 primary ballot.

Also being closely watched are primary contests in which council members Harold Brazil (D-At Large) and Kevin P. Chavous (D-Ward 7) are facing off against challengers for the seats they have held for years.

Brazil, who first won citywide office in 1996, is facing Kwame R. Brown, head of a nonprofit organization that helps corporations find minority business partners, and Sam Brooks, a business owner. At least one poll has showed Brown within striking distance of the incumbent.

Chavous, who won his seat in 1992, is confronting a vigorous challenge from Vincent C. Gray, who once headed the city's Department of Human Services.

If there is a single contention made by challengers in all three races, it is that the incumbents have lost touch with their constituents. The incumbents maintain that the city has improved vastly during their years in office.

Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4) are without opposition in today's primary and in the general election, which will be held Nov. 2.

Although the Democratic contests have attracted the largest amount of attention, council member Carol Schwartz, a Republican who holds an at-large seat, also is facing challengers. She is opposed on her party's primary ballot by Robert Pittman and Don Folden Sr.

Races for seats on the D.C. Democratic State Committee also will be decided today.The Victory 2004 slate is facing off against the Running Against Bush slate, which includes many veterans of the Howard Dean presidential primary campaign. Candidates not affiliated with either slate are also on the ballot.

Information on where to vote is available at 202-727-2525. Those with access to computers can check the Board of Elections and Ethics Web site at