THE DISTRICT of Columbia has come a long way in the past eight years. As Mayor Anthony A. Williams has noted, the collective efforts of his office, the city's chief financial officer and the D.C. Council, the District has produced seven consecutive balanced budgets and received Wall Street rating upgrades that have saved the city millions of dollars in interest payments. He also reports that more than $27 billion of investment has been attracted to the city in the past five years. Thousands of units of affordable housing have been financed, with every city ward benefiting. Hundreds of retail and office projects and thousands of hotel rooms and residential units are being built or planned. Infant mortality and teenage pregnancies are down, the number of licensed child-care centers is up, and the expansion of public charter schools, recreation facilities and jobs in the city continues. The District still faces many challenges, but progress is undeniable, thanks in good measure to steady, competent and mature leadership in the city. It is in this context -- and with that need in mind -- that we consider Tuesday's primaries.


Delegate to the House

Eleanor Holmes Norton is unopposed -- as she should be. Formidable is the best way to describe her, both as a legislator and protector of the District's interest on Capitol Hill.

Wards 2 and 4

Jack Evans and Adrian M. Fenty respectively are unopposed as well. The reason is simple: Both are extremely effective at representing their wards and in legislating and overseeing the government in behalf of the entire city.

Ward 7

Incumbent Kevin P. Chavous has his hands full with a crowded field of opponents and especially one challenger, Vincent C. Gray, who has compiled an admirable record of both public and nonprofit service to some of the city's most vulnerable residents. Mr. Chavous has been taking knocks for the quality of his constituent service. We have no opinion about that. We do know, however, that Mr. Chavous is a major legislative force on the council and was highly instrumental in helping the mayor win congressional support for a three-sector school reform initiative that will bring millions in federal funds to increase choice in public education, including charter schools, regular public schools and opportunity scholarships or vouchers. It took courage and skill to do that, just as Mr. Chavous has been steadfast in his push for quality health care, new schools and increased public safety for his constituents east of the Anacostia River. We have had our disagreements with Mr. Chavous on school governance issues. And we don't think he has yet lived up to his potential. But Kevin P. Chavous does deserve credit for helping bring the city to where it is now, and thus he has earned another term.

Ward 8

In a field of eight candidates, including former mayor Marion Barry, incumbent Sandy Allen comes out on top. This is the first time we have endorsed Ms. Allen, who is completing her second term. We do so with pleasure, having watched her grow in the job, both in her oversight role as chairman of the Committee on Human Services and as an advocate for Ward 8 residents. When this is added to her 17 years of government service and 12 years as an advisory neighborhood commissioner, it is clear that Ms. Allen is coming into her own. She is defending her seat against a household word and a memory. This is a new day. Ward 8 needs more than that.

At-Large Council Member

The District deserves better choices for this citywide office. Neither newcomer Kwame R. Brown nor Sam Brooks comes close to representing the kind of experienced and time-tested opponent who should be contesting Harold Brazil, a justifiably vulnerable incumbent. Both challengers are long on energy and ambition but short on community service, and both lack substantive knowledge of the problems confronting the city and ideas for solving them. That is unfortunate, too, because Mr. Brazil, especially in his latest term, has been a disappointment. The council could certainly use another engaged legislator. But it also needs one who knows how the government works, is familiar with the city other than through a political door-to-door campaign and who doesn't need on-the-job training in the basics. Harold Brazil, by default only.



At-large council member Carol Schwartz has nominal Republican opposition and should win going away. All other wards 2, 4, 7 and 8 candidates for both parties and the Statehood Green Party at-large candidate are running unopposed.