Nadeau announces her run near Meridian Hill Park Wednesday. (Tim Craig/The Washington Post)

Standing near Meridian Hill Park, Brianne K. Nadeau said it’s time for new “energy” and an ethical leader who can refocus attention on improving the quality of life in the city’s most densely populated ward.

“I think it’s time the District gets back to real issues, like education, public safety, and  long-term economic growth that reflects the needs of all of our residents and business owners,” said Nadeau, who was a Ward 1 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner from 2006 to 2010. “The council member has focused on short-term fixes and I want to get to the root of a lot of problems we are facing.”

Four years ago, Graham (D) easily defeated challengers Jeff Smith and Bryan Weaver in the Democratic primary to win a fourth term, reflecting the incumbent’s reputation for strong constituent service and work to redevelop Columbia Heights.

Since then, Graham has been battered by newspaper editorials questioning his ethics and his role in the approval of the city’s lottery contract, a subject of a federal probe. Graham has denied any wrongdoing, saying recent media attacks on his character are unfair.

In October, an internal Metro report accused Graham of violating agency ethics policies when he was a board member by improperly mixing his council and Metro responsibilities. According to the report, Graham attempted to link the city’s lottery contract to a pending Metro development project on Florida Avenue NW.

“I think it’s clear that the council member has behaved unethically,” Nadeau said in interview. “We need some folks like me, who are going to work hard, and avoid these ethical challenges.”

In an interview Wednesday, Graham said he has yet to decide whether he plans to seek reelection in 2014. But if he runs, he said, he’s confident Ward 1 voters will reward him with a fifth term.

“If I decide to run again, and I haven’t made that decision, and have two years left on my term, I would do so on the basis of solid constituent service and the substantial contributions I have made to every part of the ward,” said Graham, widely regarded as one of the most liberal members of the council.

Graham, chairman of the Human Services Committee, said he expects Nadeau to “use whatever campaign strategy at her disposal,” but he will be prepared to respond to her charges about his ethical record.

“No one has ever suggested I broke any law, or had any illegal financial interest or conflict of interest,” Graham said. “The only conflict of interest ever raised is between my role as a council member and as a Metro board member…I have no ethical issues.”

Nadeau said she decided to enter the race more than a year before the Democratic primary so she has time to raise money and build name recognition. But she said she’s already banked $35,000 for her campaign and has a supporter base that extends to both sides of Georgia Avenue.