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Mr. DeMartino, who is trying to unseat Tommy Wells, points to a similar lack of vision.

The Ward 6 population has grown by thousands because of new housing in the western and southern areas of the ward, where Nationals Park is located. But heavy-handed parking enforcement, rising taxes and Democrats’ failure to get the city’s “fiscal house in order,” Mr. DeMartino says, are affecting voters’ quality of life.

“Throughout Capitol Hill, the parking rules are abusive to everybody,” Mr. DeMartino said. “You can’t have family or friends visit, can’t go out to dinner. Repairmen are worried about being ticketed.”

Mr. Hedgepeth, a lawyer, says the rising cost of living in the District even concerns wealthy voters in his ward, where Mary M. Cheh is seeking a second term.

He cites the new shopping-bag and beverage taxes, and says he has serious concerns about the wisdom of the Healthy Schools Initiative, which charter school advocates have said is cost-prohibitive.

“One of the things about the bill is the cost to schools,” said Mr. Hedgepeth, whose daughters attends Murch Elementary School. “Murch has no cafeteria. The plan requires massive spending to handle the food provisions and adds new layers of bureaucracy, rules and regulations.”

All four candidates support school choice, and said one of the best appointments Mayor Adrian M. Fenty made was naming Michelle A. Rhee as schools chancellor. They also support the idea of a community college - if heightened council oversight proves the initiative is academically worthy and cost-effective.

The D.C. Charter is a particular hindrance to all D.C. voters, even the ones who happen to be Democrats.

The charter, which provided for the first elections for mayor and council in 1974, allows voters to elect members of all or no political affiliation in the mayoral, council chairman and eight ward races. But it prohibits voters from electing two members of the same party in at-large council races.

The charter says “that not more than one of the at-large members nominated by any political party” can win both at-large council seats in a given election.

Some at-large lawmakers have succeeded in getting around the “political party” stipulation. Both independents currently sitting on the council, for example, once had political affiliations - David A. Catania is a former Republican and Michael A. Brown is a former Democrat.