More than 300 supporters and colleagues were crammed into the gym at the Hillcrest Recreation Center last week to hear Mayor Anthony A. Williams tell folks he was not suiting up for a third term.

But only two of the 13 members of the council were able to fit the event into their schedules: Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1).

Patterson, as Williams mentioned during his goodbye speech, was the first -- and only -- council member to endorse him for mayor in 1998.

The rest, including the three council members who would like to replace him -- Linda W. Cropp (D), Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4) and Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5) -- were apparently otherwise engaged.

It's no slight, said Vince Morris, Williams's spokesman. Because the event was such a double-super-secret, invites were sent out only 24 hours ahead of time, so it's no wonder that most busy-bee council members couldn't make it.

"It wasn't a 'Your presence is honorably requested' kind of thing," he said, adding that there will be ample time for farewell gatherings. After all, Williams will be around for the next 15 months.

Hizzoner's House

This time he's serious.

After his I'm-not-running speech, Mayor Williams said that he will definitely stay and buy a house in the District.

Of course, we've heard that before. During the 1998 mayoral race, then-candidate Williams promised to buy a house here.

But these things take time. A year into his new job, Williams told The Post: "My priority the first year was working 24 hours, seven days a week to turn the government around and . . . to make a presence in the city. Now . . . I'll work with people to locate a home. It's our intention to buy a home and permanently reside here."

He added: "We're consulting with people. It's something that we intend to take seriously. . . . It's not like buying a pack of cigarettes. But it's not whether, but where."

During the 2002 campaign, Williams had narrowed it down to LeDroit Park and said he would buy a house whether he won the election or not. "Yes, absolutely," the mayor said.

Fast-forward to June 2005. Williams told Post columnist Courtland Milloy that he was still looking.

"To be honest, personally, I would like to get something connected in some way or another to the Anacostia River," he said. "When I was CFO [chief financial officer], I had an opportunity to buy houses at a great value, which I regret now because I'm not in a position financially to buy a house in the right place for the right price. That's one of the reasons I'm thinking about not running [for reelection in 2006], so I can get into a position to buy a house."

In other words, his real estate agent shouldn't be counting on the commission check.

Challenge in Ward 8

The ballots have been tallied, and by most accounts, the Ward 8 Democrats' election was over on Sept. 17.

But not so fast.

Three members of the Ward 8 Democratic organization, including Mary J. Cuthbert, former first vice president, and Sandra Seegars, second vice president, have filed a complaint with the D.C. Democratic State Committee challenging the election process. Sandra Williams, who unsuccessfully ran for treasurer, also joined the complaint, which could force the organization to hold another election.

The state committee will hold a meeting Tuesday to determine whether the challenge has merit. Mary Eva Candon, executive director of the state committee, confirmed that the challenge was received and will be reviewed.

"It could require a full hearing or, depending on how the Democratic State Committee interprets the challenge, it could be dismissed," Candon said.

The challenge arose after a slate of candidates, the Progressive Democrats, led by state committee member Philip Pannell, missed the Labor Day deadline to file to have their names placed on the ballot. The day before the Sept. 17 election, Pannell called an emergency meeting of the Ward 8 Democrats' executive committee, which voted to include the slate on the ballot.

Pannell, who won the presidency, said he failed to submit the names of his slate because his uncle was hospitalized in Hampton, Va., and he had rushed to be with him.

But Seegars said Pannell's excuse is weak. He had ample time, at least three weeks, to file his slate before leaving for Hampton, she said. She said he never complained about the deadline's being on a holiday.

Since then, the two members have thrown verbal grenades at each other.

"It's politics and it's personal," Pannell said. "It's very clear that people want a change, but folks like Sandra Seegars want to destroy the Ward 8 Democrats rather than see a change in progress."

"That's ridiculous," Seegars said. "I won my seat, so my challenge is serious. I stand on losing what I have already won if the election has to be done over again."

Seegars said that the rules should not be circumvented for anybody and that including Pannell's slate on the ballot would not be fair to the candidates who submitted their names on time.

"A deadline is a deadline for everybody," she said. "Phil needs to stop manipulating people to have his way. He always speaks highly of the rules. He's doing the opposite of what he's been preaching for years."

Seegars said she's anxious to see what the state committee will decide, considering that several of the Ward 8 Democrats are involved with both organizations.