It’s picking up in the 35th Ward, where alderman Rey Colon and former alderman Vilma Colom are heading toward their fourth showdown in the last eight years.

Alderman Richard Mell (33rd) has brought in his precinct workers to help Colom, his protege, win back the seat Colon took from her in 2003.

For his part, Colon has picked up endorsements from every other elected official in the area, though it’s not certain whether they’ll br sending over precinct workers on the day of the April 17 runoff.

Which brings us to the matter of the Bruces, as they are widely known—Bruce Anderson and Bruce Embrey, two longtime independent activists who oversaw much of Colon’s successful ward operation in 2003. This time around they’ve decamped, breaking from Colon largely on the issue of zoning: the Bruces think he’s been far too quick in allowing condominium development in the area.

During the first go-round in February, Anderson and Embrey supported Miguel Sotomayor, helping him put together a decent precinct operation for a first-time candidate. Soto finished third with a respectable 20 percent of the vote, behind Colon’s 46 percent and Colom’s 34 percent.

After the election Anderson, Embrey, and about 30 allies from the Sotomayor campaign met to talk about whom to support in the runoff.  After a spirited debate, the group as a whole decided to stay neutral. Individuals, of course, are free to make endorsements

So whom are the Bruces supporting? Embrey, who actually lives in the adjoining 26th Ward, says he’s not endorsing or working for either Colon or Colom. “I’ve gotten calls from both camps,” he says. “Vilma called me on election night promising me the moon and the stars and the sun. But I’ve been working against the machine for 25 years and I’m not about to change. I’m just going to sit this one out.”

Anderson, who lives in the ward, says he’s not working for either candidate, and he won’t say who he’s voting for.

According to recent polls the race is too close to call. It will probably come down to which candidate has the best election-day operations. If Mell’s muscle pushes Colom over the top, Colon has only himself to blame for alienating two savvy ward operators like the Bruces.