In what will surely rank as one of the most exciting nights in the history of electoral office in the District of Columbia, on Nov. 2, real-estate broker Anthony Rivera won a seat on Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6C by just 12 votes.

Rivera narrowly triumphed over XM Satellite Radio General Counsel Alan Kimber, winning 296–284. The two candidates were neck-and-neck, each receiving upward of 35 percent of the vote. A third candidate, Marriott Hospitality Public Charter High School teacher Michael Cucciardo, garnered about 22 percent of the vote. (There were also some write-ins.)

Despite this photo finish, the attentions of most major media outlets were firmly focused on the national contest, where President George W. Bush won a convincing re-election bid by a margin of more than 3 million votes in the popular count. But the closeness of the District ANC races trumped the national one: In addition to the 6C race, there were several hotly contested ANC races in such swing neighborhoods as Columbia Heights, where two races were decided by a mere eight votes.

Single-member District 6C05, which covers the area immediately surrounding Union Station in Near Northeast, is heavily populated by senior citizens, although the demographic has been skewing younger as development moves north from Capitol Hill. Both candidates brought a passion for local issues to the race: Rivera focused on a winning mix of economic and horticultural issues, encouraging “smart” development projects and “maintenance of trees”; Kimber paired concerns over development with a focus on the “little things” such as street lights and clean alleyways.

Caught at home early on the morning of Nov. 3, Rivera was overwhelmed by the news of his victory, saying, “I gotta let it sink in first,” before continuing to comment on the race. He suggested that his decade in the neighborhood played a major role in his win: “I know…more people.”

Voter Wayne Upton says that Rivera’s media blitz also played a part. “I got a flier at the door,” he explains. When he got to the polls, Upton didn’t recognize any other names.

In addition to name recognition, Rivera’s strategy of downplaying the importance of actual ANC issues may have resonated with voters. Rivera says he has no specific platform. “It’s not like being a city councilperson,” he clarifies, “I’ve seen ANC people run on a platform, but you’re not supposed to do that.”

Kimber found out about his loss Wednesday morning by checking with the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics’ Web site. Later, when reached at home, he was gracious in defeat, even going as far as to admit that he and Rivera shared similar goals, including improving public safety and managing development pressures in their district. But having come so close seems to have left the candidate thinking of what might have been. “You can always get out and knock on a few more doors,” he lamented.

Observers speculate that Cucciardo may have played the role of spoiler. Supporters, however, point to his affability. “He’s a super nice guy,” says Dave Dickey. Cucciardo, who made a swift return to private life and his educational duties at the Marriott Charter School, was unavailable for comment.

Although absentee ballots have yet to be counted, Kimber, who conceded defeat to his wife in the wee hours of Nov. 3, says he isn’t interested in a recount. “Not at this point,” he says. But the election may not be over yet. Kimber supporter Patrick Reed is not as satisfied. “I’d go for a recount,” he says.CP