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New Era for D.C.

It's easy to forget that there's also a city called Washington - a city that's far from synonymous with the White House and Capitol Hill. While politics in those august buildings has taken a nosedive into scandal, Washington's often gritty city politics are poised for an ascent.

That's the impression left by last week's primary election. The November mayoral final will be between two people who both promise a brighter era for the capital city.

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Republican Carol Schwartz, who made a good showing four years ago against comeback-bound Marion Barry, champions a strong reform agenda. But it's her opponent, Democrat Anthony Williams, who has captured the spotlight since last Tuesday.

Partly, that's because Washington is overwhelmingly Democratic, making Mr. Williams the front-runner heading toward November. But also of note is this Democrat's stark contrast to Mr. Barry, known for flamboyant rhetoric and dress - not to mention his conviction for cocaine use. Williams, who has served for the past couple of years as the city's finance director, favors suits, bow ties, and low-key oratory.

His appeal springs from management know-how and a willingness to stand for principle. He stood his ground against the excesses Barry's administration was famous for, and, if he wins, he is likely to restore a degree of fiscal order to Washington that could bring with it restoration of the city's prized home rule.

The city lost that prize earlier this decade when Congress, which supplies much of the District's funding, got fed up with rampant inefficiency and appointed a financial control board to virtually run the city.

Williams - or Ms. Schwartz - could also reunite the city across racial and class lines. Both have drawn diverse backing.

Washington is a place all Americans ought to be able to take pride in. The coming change at city hall will make that easier.

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