Early returns from Tuesday’s election showed perennial District political contender Michael Brown likely fighting his way onto the D.C. Council as an at-large member, defeating the furious write-in candidacy of incumbent Republican Carol Schwartz.

Brown, 43, son of the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, dropped his longtime affiliation with the Democratic Party to run as an independent — the only way he could win one of two at-large seats up for grabs. With 20 of 143 precincts reporting, Brown had garnered 19 percent of the vote, second to that of incumbent at-large Councilman Kwame Brown, a Democrat well on his way to a second term.

This was Michael Brown’s fourth attempt for public office in two years.

His likely victory would end the political career of Schwartz, a four-term at-large incumbent who was forced to run a write-in campaign after losing the nomination to the GOP’s Patrick Mara, a newcomer to the local political scene.

Democrats looked to be victorious by huge margins in all other races. That includes Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who will return to Congress with the expectation — with a Barack Obama victory and gains for Democrats in both Houses — of reversing her non-voting status.

Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans was on his way to winning a fifth term, defeating Republican Christina Erland Culver. Ward 4’s Muriel Bowser was unopposed in her bid for a first full term, while Ward 7’s Yvette Alexander defeated her one opponent also to win a full four years in office. And Councilman Marion Barry continues to own Ward 8, having easily dispatched a pair of independents.

The elections board waited more than 2.5 hours to release a single return, an “extraordinarily overcautious” reaction to a couple of past election flubs, said D.C. Councilwoman Mary Cheh. The wait, she said, “was becoming an embarrassment.”