Freeman Klopott has already ruminated about how the at-large DC Council member special election may be shaping up.  Klopott summoned some numbers to back up the debated assertion that the contest will ultimately morph into a two way race between incumbent Sekou Biddle - appointed by the DC Democratic party - and Ward One school board member Patrick Mara, the DCGOP’s hope to score an upset like David Catania a la 1997.
Klopott’s points are each valid, and the race could come down to that as the end of April approaches, but from District electoral history, there is solid evidence that the election could remain fractured until special election day, and that the victor could slip in with an underwhelming plurality of the vote.
Let’s call it the Mendelson Metric.  The At-large DC Council Member owes his election to a ten way battle for the Democratic nomination in 1998, which was up for grabs in the aftermath of the 1997 special election that upset the appointed Arrington Dixon.  
With all the attention focused on the drafting of city administrator Anthony Williams in the post-Marion Barry, still-regnant “control board” Democratic mayoral nomination battle, these down ballot candidates struggled to get their messages out to voters.  
The candidates’ had various bases of support - a large Afro-American congregation, the gay community, white liberals, politically active black middle class, etc. - that they were largely unable to reach beyond.   Phil Mendelson, inexplicably encouraged by a modest and concentrated 7% of the vote in the 1996 at large Democratic council primary, managed to secure the support of organized labor that gave him the ground troops to give him a share that at least registered in most wards.  Mendelson gained a plurality of only 17%, with a host of competitors clustered right behind.  He has managed to leverage incumbency, somewhat limited name recognition and the Democratic ballot line to stay in office with underwhelming primary and general election performance ever since.
The host of hopefuls other than Biddle and Mara - and these two candidates do indeed seem poised to exploit the most institutional support - seem tenacious, though.   Brian Weaver, Josh Lopez, MaryEva Candon, Jacque Patterson and Wayne Dickson, at least, all stand to be able to gain a solid slice of the vote themselves, which, when you add them all up, would amount to a big chunk of the low-turnout electorate.   And, although I’ve been skeptical of Vince Orange’s chances, and his political calculation, in entering the special election after coming so close to the Democratic state committee’s appointment, I am not counting him out.  (Biddle doesn’t seem to be either, perhaps launching his call for investigating PEPCO, post-storm, in the hopes that voters remember that Orange lobbied for the often-loathed public utility.)
In low-profile contests, busy voters often act on the little information that does manage to trickle down to them, and with limited resources, they may defer to the notion that only two candidates are relevant, and worth their time when considering how to vote.  Let’s hope that this narrative, which is no where near the definite storyline as of yet, won’t take hold before the field bears this out, and the District’s democracy-starved voters get a chance to evaluate this generous slate of choices.