FORMER D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz’s announced entry into the District’s race for mayor is yet another wrinkle in an already unusual election year. It is further evidence that November’s general election will be a real contest and not an afterthought to the Democratic primary, as has often been the case in this overwhelmingly Democratic city. No matter one’s opinion of Ms. Schwartz — or, for that matter, of her opponents — voters should welcome having choices.

Ms. Schwartz, who served 16 years as a Republican at-large member of the council, made the surprise announcement Monday that she will launch an independent campaign for mayor in the Nov. 4 election. Ms. Schwartz will face two incumbent council members: Democratic nominee Muriel Bowser and independent David A. Catania, who, like Ms. Schwartz, used to be a Republican. Bruce Majors is the Libertarian candidate. The beleaguered D.C. Republican Party also promises to field a candidate.

It is too early to assess Ms. Schwartz’s impact on the race. She was a popular officeholder with an admirable record of speaking out for good government and fiscal discipline when neither was in vogue in the District. But she has been, as she acknowledges, on the sidelines of city government since her loss in a 2008 Republican primary. After so much time away, will she be able to build a campaign organization and secure the 3,000 signatures needed to get on the ballot? Does she have a command of the urgent issues confronting the city? What is her vision for the District?

We have not always agreed with Ms. Schwartz, and her opposition to school reform was one reason we didn’t endorse her when she last ran for reelection. We did always admire her independence, which is why we are puzzled by the condescending allegation from Mr. Catania’s campaign manager that Ms. Schwartz is a stooge for Ms. Bowser. Ms. Schwartz commendably refused invitations from reporters to similarly trash either of her opponents, preferring to talk about her ideas and her qualifications.

We hope that all of the candidates adopt that tone over the next five months as voters ponder who can best lead the city.