TWO DAYS after former D.C. Council member Harry L. Thomas (D-Ward 5) was sentenced for enriching himself with public monies, early voting will begin in the special election to pick his council replacement. It is a fitting new start for the community betrayed by Mr. Thomas’s corruption. Not only is there an opportunity to elect someone committed to good government, but Ward 5 also has a chance to move forward.

Early balloting starts Saturday, and the election will be held May 15 to fill the term left vacant when Mr. Thomas — sentenced Thursday to 38 months in a federal prison for his theft of more than $350,000 in city funds — was forced to resign in January. As with most special elections, turnout is expected to be light. We urge voters to make their voices heard in a race that has importance not only for Ward 5 neighborhoods but also for the city as a whole.

The field is crowded and strong. Among the 12 candidates whose names appear on the ballot are longtime activist Kathy Henderson and former prosecutor Kenyan McDuffie. Both Democrats make appealing cases for their election; Ms. Henderson is a proven fighter for community needs, and Mr. McDuffie has a clear-eyed list of priorities that stresses education and jobs. Delano Hunter, smart and engaging, was our choice when he challenged Mr. Thomas in the 2010 Democratic primary. But Mr. Hunter’s recent personal financial issues make him a less-than-ideal addition to an already ethically challenged council.

Our nod goes to Tim Day , the lone Republican, who already has made what is perhaps the most positive contribution to Ward 5 by helping bring to light questions about Mr. Thomas’s shady finances. Mr. Day, ridiculed and even harassed by some of those who supported Mr. Thomas, demonstrated that he gives more than lip service to government integrity. His party affiliation, generally seen as a political handicap in a city where Democrats greatly outnumber Republicans, would help bring important balance to the city’s governance. The District’s one-party rule has resulted in a go-along-to-get-along culture that looks the other way at wrongdoing.

The strength of Mr. Day’s candidacy extends far beyond the role he played in Mr. Thomas’s downfall. An accountant who knows the importance of details, Mr. Day has keen insights into how the city should spend its money with better, measurable results. A native of Washington and Ward 5, he has a record of community service and knows the needs of its neighborhoods. He is particularly interested in issues affecting children who are economically disadvantaged, and he hopes to champion small-business owners. Mr. Day would be an effective representative for Ward 5 and a needed voice of independence on the D.C. Council.