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Mr. Ray says he likes getting into the weeds of various communities and delivering to constituents the recreation facilities and government services they want and deserve.

His successful weeding efforts are part of the reason why Mr. Fenty and D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray can tout new and modernized parks and recreation centers during their own campaign stump speeches — and Mr. Ray says he wants to improve on his own record and bring ordinary folk into the fold at City Hall.

Mr. Ray says he would be a good fit as, say, chairman of the council’s government operations committee.

“We’re going to focus on transparency of the budget and policy,” he said. “You’ve got to include those whom you service in the entire process.”

Mr. Ray’s endorsers and fundraisers stretch from one corner of the city to the other and reflect the broad base needed in a citywide campaign: Mrs. Gore, for whom he also served as chief of staff; former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright; Dorothy Ford, mother of former Rep. Harold Ford Jr., Tennessee Democrat; D.C. Council member Jack Evans; Cora Masters Barry; the Rev. Willie Wilson; and activist Greg Rhett.

He also has the backing of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, a national network that helps fund coffers for gay candidates. If elected, Mr. Ray would join two other gay lawmakers on the council.

There are no complexities in his campaign platform, he says.

Mr. Ray says his motivation comes from the trenches — removing dead rodents, fixing aged facilities, filling potholes, formulating legislation, policies and budgets, and working hand-in-hand with city employees and contractors to get things done.

Now this man from the Bible Belt is asking voters from Anacostia to Georgetown to grant him a different public service privilege. To make his pitch, Mr. Ray says he often has to show a photo of Mr. Mendelson to voters so they know who he’s running against.

But whether he’s canvassing the citys bleaker neighborhoods or its toniest ones, Mr. Ray always delivers a simple message: “I tell them, ‘I want to work for you.’”

He says he is struck by the anti-incumbency mood that is playing itself out in national and local politics, but he’s not taking anything for granted.

“If you’re good, you should move up,” said Mr. Ray. “Public service is not an entitlement.”