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Ms. Alexander disagreed.

“People are not stupid in Ward 7,” she said. “They are very astute, politically. We have a plan; we have vision.”

One of her opponents, Tom Brown, has been recognized for his workforce development efforts a key strength in a ward afflicted by soaring unemployment. He also picked up endorsements from the D.C. Chamber of Commerce and The Washington Post, a strong showing for a nonincumbent.

The heated campaign reached its zenith last week during a raucous debate at Ray’s the Steaks at East River.

Ms. Alexander fired back at Mr. Chavous’ accusation that she was the mayor’s puppet by mentioning Mr. Chavous’ arrest in December on charges that he solicited a prostitute  an incident that resulted in a deferred-prosecution deal in D.C. Superior Court, but also largely eroded Mr. Chavous’ legitimacy as a candidate.

“Yes, I was arrested, everyone in here knows that, and I’ve still been getting support. Why? Because I’m unbroken, and I’m unbowed,” Mr. Chavous said. “I’ve been knocking on doors consistently. I never stopped campaigning, and frankly it doesn’t come up at doors. Because the people in Ward 7 have moved forward and so have I.”

Challenger Dorothy Douglas, a school board member, tried to rise above the din to instill some unity among the candidates.

“We still have to work together, we still have to work together, and we still have to work together,” Ms. Douglas said at Ray’s. “But I’m going to be the one who’s going to win.”

Don Folden Sr., who will be vying with Peaceoholics co-founder Ron Moten for the Republican nod on Tuesday, crashed the Democrats’ debate and gave a frank assessment of the state of the District. He said Ward 7 residents need to stand up for themselves to get jobs and other benefits so special interests and a cabal of select contractors do not tighten their grip on city hall.

Mr. Moten, a familiar figure at the John A. Wilson Building, was an ally of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty who received public funds to defuse gang disputes. He has emphasized his community work in his council bid and made headlines early in the campaign cycle by switching his party affiliation from Democrat to what he calls “civil rights Republican.”

Ward 8

No matter what anyone says, the battle for Democratic voters in this Southeast ward is a referendum on Mr. Barry, the man synonymous with D.C. politics as a former four-term mayor. Despite a career fraught with legal and ethics problems, he has maintained so much popular support that he is seeking his third successive term on the council.

“I appreciate Mayor Barry for his days as mayor, and he’s an iconic figure for his days as mayor,” challenger Jacque D. Patterson said. But appreciation for the former mayor, he argued, does not extend to Mr. Barry’s terms on the council.

“I think a lot of Marion Barry’s base has dissipated,” he said.

Critics point to Mr. Barry’s thin record of achievements as a council member and suggest a growing sentiment in Ward 8 to move past him. In 2010, a report by lawyer Robert S. Bennett concluded that Mr. Barry violated conflict-of-interest laws when he awarded a contract to his girlfriend and then tried to impede an investigation into the matter. Mr. Barry was censured by his council colleagues and stripped of his committee chairmanship.But the scandal did not seem to hurt his standing in Ward 8, which has embraced him despite a trail of scandals throughout his long political career.

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