An affordable housing executive and anti-crime activist announced yesterday that he will challenge D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D) for his at-large seat in 2006, becoming the second candidate attempting to unseat the two-term incumbent.

Before 50 supporters gathered in the backroom of Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street NW, David Bowers said he is running to bring new energy to bear on chronic city problems, such as crumbling schools, skyrocketing housing prices and the cycle of violence.

"I'm running because there is compelling human need everywhere I look," Bowers said. "If there is no bold vision, we will come back here 20 years from now and still be talking about people being killed and kids not graduating from school."

Former D.C. Democratic Party chairman A. Scott Bolden also has signaled his intention to take on Mendelson after deciding not to run for mayor.

In the past, Mendelson, who is white, has prevailed over multiple African American candidates in the Democratic primary. He has never received 50 percent of the vote. This time, Bowers adviser Marshall Brown said, it would be wrong to assume that Bowers and Bolden, who are black, will again split the black vote and clear the way for a Mendelson victory. "We're going to peel away a lot of white votes," said Brown, who directed his son Kwame R. Brown's successful at-large race last year. "White people, if you do a good job, they'll give you a chance. My son proved that."

Bowers, 35, the son of a former Superior Court judge, is seeking office for the first time. He was born in the District, was raised in Ward 3 and attended D.C. public schools. He is a former legislative assistant to Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.). He now serves as director of the local office of the Enterprise Foundation, a nonprofit organization that invests in affordable housing. He is also the founder of No Murders DC, a volunteer group.

David Bowers greets well-wishers. He announced that he is seeking the at-large D.C. Council seat held by Democrat Phil Mendelson.