Two longtime community activists, Lawrence T. Guyot Jr. and Anne M. Renshaw, were among 20 incumbents defeated in last week's Advisory Neighborhood Commission elections.
Guyot, a District government worker who represents the historic LeDroit Park community, was defeated by Myla Moss, a health care lobbyist, by 94 votes.
Renshaw, a former member of the Board of Zoning Adjustment who has represented Chevy Chase for nearly 14 years, lost to activist Samantha J. Nolan by 101 votes. Nolan is the director of the neighborhood watch program and the public safety committee for the Chevy Chase Citizens' Association.
The city has 37 Advisory Neighborhood Commissions divided into 286 single-member districts, each representing about 2,000 residents. The commissioners, who serve two-year terms, are the government's eyes and ears on grass-roots issues such as zoning and traffic. Under District law, the opinions of commissioners must be given "great weight" when city agencies make decisions.
Gottlieb Simon, executive director of the Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, said that 76 incumbents did not seek reelection on Nov. 2. In some single-member districts, the outcome of the election has not been determined because the write-in votes have to be counted.
Although the positions are nonpartisan and have no salary, the campaigns can get bitter.
Guyot, a civil rights activist who moved to Washington in 1971, accused D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) of using his political clout and resources to unseat him. Guyot and Graham have clashed for years.
Guyot first came to national attention in 1964, when as chairman of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, he fought to be seated at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City.
"Graham selected the nominee and orchestrated the campaign," Guyot said. "It was well-organized. I'm not easy to beat."
But Graham and Moss both deny that the council member played a significant role in the ANC campaign. Graham said he gave the maximum $25 contribution to Moss's campaign. Although Moss said the council member sent out a letter on her behalf to his constituents, it wasn't until the day before the election. Moss and Graham criticized Guyot for allowing the proliferation of liquor licenses in the community.
"We have a difference of opinion," Graham said. "It's not related to personalities. I have a lot of respect for Lawrence and his historic contributions to civil rights. This came down to liquor licenses and nothing more than that."
Guyot acknowledged that he had been feuding with Graham over liquor license applications and development of a parcel on 14th Street NW near the Nehemiah Shopping Center.
After 12 years, Moss said, people simply wanted a change. Moss, who moved to LeDroit Park in 1999, said that she challenged Guyot in 2002 and lost that election by nine votes. While she didn't take the election for granted, Moss said, she wasn't surprised by her victory.
"Mr. Guyot is a strong civil rights advocate and has been in place a long time, but he hasn't been in the trenches with the residents," said Moss, president of the LeDroit Park Civic Association. "He wasn't connecting with the residents at the grass-roots level. He was operating at 30,000 feet and really more engaged in activities beyond LeDroit Park."
Both Guyot and Moss said they spent about $2,000 on their campaigns.
"I worked very hard," Moss said. "I ran a clean . . . old-fashioned campaign. I knocked on every door. I didn't take for granted that I would be a shoo-in. I wanted to earn it."
In Chevy Chase, Renshaw said her campaign was sidelined this summer when she underwent surgery that left her right arm in a cast and her leg in a splint. First elected a commissioner in 1991, Renshaw said she has focused strongly on the fire and emergency rescue response in her community.
Despite her recent loss, Renshaw said she will continue to be an advocate for her neighbors, particularly those on Military Road where she has made her home for 30 years.
Currently, Renshaw said she is fighting a city plan to change the number of traffic lanes on Military Road. She fears the change would speed up traffic and increase the number of accidents.
"There are always winds of change blowing in the community," Renshaw said of her loss. "I will continue to be seen and heard."
Nolan, a private tutor for children with learning disabilities, expects that she and Renshaw will work together on issues. They even crossed paths at a community meeting Monday evening.
"I have no ill feelings towards her, so I hope she has no ill feelings towards me," Nolan said. "And we both are committed to working to making our community better, so I'm hoping we can work together."
Nolan attributes her win to an aggressive campaign, which included personally meeting virtually all of her constituents.
"I went door to door to meet every one of the voters in my single-member district, and many said that they had lived here 25 years and no one had ever knocked at their door before, no other candidate," Nolan said. "Many had heard my name on the [Chevy Chase Community] list serve or though Neighborhood Watch, but it meant something to them that we had met face to face."
Nolan said she is planning her transition, which includes an overview of the community's issues, encompassing traffic, public safety and transportation.
"I think the community was ready for a change, and they were just waiting for the right person to put their trust in," Nolan said. "And because of my work with Neighborhood Watch and the Public Safety Committee, they felt I was the right person at the right time."
Other defeated incumbents included Deborah R. Thomas, of Ward 1, and Robert Artisst, of Ward 5. Dee Hunter and William B. Boston, respectively, will replace those commissioners.
Staff writer Nicole Fuller contributed to this report.