It started the day after Vincent C. Gray won the Democratic nomination to represent Ward 7 on the D.C. Council.

Instead of chasing after people, begging for votes, Gray suddenly found residents pursuing him, trying to schedule a meeting or nab him for an event.

"I'd say, 'Well, I'm not even elected yet,' " said Gray, who faces Republican and D.C. Statehood Green Party candidates in Tuesday's general election. "But it's almost as if the general election doesn't exist in the District of Columbia. And it's ironic because, man, your council members have more impact on your daily life than either George Bush or John Kerry."

In the nation's capital, where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans nearly 10 to 1, the general election has long been a poor cousin to the Democratic primary.

This year is no exception. On Tuesday, the Democratic primary's victors are expected to prevail handily over their underfunded and largely unknown GOP and third-party opponents.

Kwame R. Brown, who won a tough, three-way primary for Harold Brazil's at-large council seat, is still campaigning hard.

These days, when Brown starts shaking hands and asking for votes, most people just laugh, he said.

"People say, 'Oh, you already won,' "Brown said. "No, nothing's won till Tuesday. I can only sleep after Tuesday."

Former mayor Marion Barry is so confident he will beat Republican Cardell Shelton for the Ward 8 seat that he took a three-week vacation.

Asked whether he had spent much time campaigning, Barry said, "Not a lot. Not a lot. This is my victory lap."

The hottest races on the ballot other than the presidential contest are nonpartisan battles for two seats on the city school board.

In District 1, which covers Wards 1 and 2, Julie Mikuta chose not to seek reelection. The four candidates are city employee Jeff Smith, lawyer Keenan Keller, former advisory neighborhood commissioner Eleanor Johnson and software engineer Christopher McKeon.

In District 2, which comprises Wards 3 and 4, Dwight E. Singleton is seeking reelection. He faces six challengers, including parent advocate Hugh Allen, who came in second for the post four years ago. Other candidates are Federal City Council education director Victor Reinoso, learning-standards advocate Laura McGiffert Slover, pension law specialist Tom Dawson, federal employee David A. Jordan and former teacher Mai Abdul Rahman.