Samantha J. Nolan has spent about $200 on her campaign brochures. She's knocked on countless doors. And she has scheduled a steady round of "meet and greets" with prospective supporters from now until November -- all to win an unpaid post on her Advisory Neighborhood Commission.
Nolan is challenging incumbent Anne M. Renshaw, who has held the position for close to 14 years, in the November election to represent Chevy Chase's 3G03 single-member district on one of the city's 37 Advisory Neighborhood Commissions.
By the quiet standards of many ANC races, this one stands out -- through its energy, its use of campaign money and the presence of two strong, determined candidates. Both were campaigning hard outside their neighborhood polling place Sept. 14 when residents voted in the D.C. primary -- Renshaw with her right arm in a cast and leg in a splint, as a result of surgery this summer, and Nolan standing in the hot sun for nearly 12 hours.
"When you're in office for 14 years, and you're not willing to give it up to someone else, you're not going without a fight," Nolan said.
Renshaw said that she has battled opponents in the past and that this time will not be any different: She expects to campaign moderately and come out victorious.
"I'm planning on winning," Renshaw said. "I'm an excellent commissioner, that I say."
Gottleib Simon, executive director of the Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, said races for commissioner rarely entail any aggressive campaigning.
"I don't know that we've had any race with a large amount of money spent," he said. "It's a very interesting race, with two very committed long-term community activists."
Both women have made names for themselves in the community, Nolan as the director of the neighborhood watch program and the public safety committee for the Chevy Chase Citizens' Association, and as chairman of the association's public safety committee, and Renshaw with her work on the ANC, as co-chairman in Ward 3 of Mayor Anthony A. Williams's (D) first campaign for mayor and as a member of the Board of Zoning Adjustment.
Renshaw has worked to get roads paved and traffic lights installed. Just last month, Nolan successfully lobbied city officials to set up a test program using orange flags to help pedestrians cross two troubled intersections along Connecticut Avenue.
The issue of traffic is perhaps the most debated in the neighborhood. The candidates disagree over whether a traffic light should be installed at the corner of Connecticut Avenue and Morrison Street, one of the sites where Nolan's flags are being used.
Renshaw says the corner needs a traffic light, and said that many in the neighborhood agree. Nolan said a light would "change the character" of the street, from a quiet residential one to a through street with lots of speeding cars.
"Lights aren't always the answer," Nolan said. "Before you put in a light, you try other solutions first. Lights can do more harm to a traffic flow than they can do good."
Frank Buchholz, ANC commissioner in a neighboring single-member district, said the disagreement between Nolan and Renshaw mirrors the attitudes of residents.
"The debates about traffic calming aren't very calm, I'll tell you that," Buchholz said. "People are crazy when it comes to traffic. We've had a lot of shouting matches at our meetings."
No issue is insignificant for an ANC commissioner. Renshaw said she carries a notepad with her in anticipation of running into unhappy residents. When she walks her dogs, residents often shout complaints to her from their car windows.
An ANC member is always on duty, she said.
"The problem with both Anne and Samantha is that you have two people that are active, dedicated to the community," said Buchholz. "It's just unfortunate that they live in the same community."