While President Obama and Mitt Romney played it cool waiting for election results to trickle in Tuesday, the scene was sometimes remarkably different at the very bottom of the ballot in the District, where candidates in hyperlocal races in which a few votes can make a difference cursed at voters or were removed from polling places in handcuffs.
“You’d think with the ANC races these people are running for president,” said Darlene Glymph, a candidate for volunteer positions representing only a few square blocks on bodies the District calls Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs). In a process unique to the District — and a recipe for Election Day conflicts involving candidates — unpaid election officials on 37 such little-scrutinized boards oversee nearly $1 million in city funds annually.
Contrasting starkly with major elections that have been fought over the course of months, perhaps the majority of the work in the most local of races is done by the candidates themselves on the day of the election, feet from the sole polling places where people will vote for them — people who have likely never heard their names or considered past the first few races on the ballot before arriving. And like elections in rural, swing-state precincts unaccustomed to the attention, results can hinge on only a few votes.
So emotions run high — even if, in this case, the stakes are low.
Police responded repeatedly to the Browne Education Campus in Northeast after a series of confrontations involving ANC candidate Kathy Henderson, who is facing off against Mrs. Glymph in Ward 5.
“She started attacking people, running up to them and harassing them,” Mrs. Glymph and several others said, showing a video depicting Ms. Henderson walking towards a man who appeared to say, “Get away from me.”
“MacDuffie had to come calm her down,” she said, referring to D.C. Council member Kenyan MacDuffie, who represents the ward. “She was pointing at the officer saying ‘I will have you arrested.’ ”
Meanwhile, police at King Greenleaf Rec Center in Southwest handcuffed another ANC candidate Tuesday for allegedly assaulting a man she thought was tearing down her signs, WRC-TV (Channel 4) reporter Tom Sherwood tweeted.
As with other races, campaigning is barred within a marked perimeter around polling places, but five people said Mrs. Henderson was inside the school for 40 minutes passing out fliers that disparaged her opponent for being a Republican.
“I was absolutely yelling — that I am proud to be a Democrat,” said Ms. Henderson, who denied passing out fliers inside and said she was waiting in line, checking the tally and using the restroom. “The drama was caused by the candidate who is embarrassed that she is a Republican.”
The fliers attacking Mrs. Glymph also do not say who paid for them, which appeared to violate D.C. regulations.
“That may be an issue,” Ms. Henderson acknowledged.