WAKE UP AND smell the electoral politics.

In just one month, Philly voters will head to the polls for the most significant City Council elections in a generation.

With five members retiring and several more seats competititve, the next Council will have the most new members since 1991, when seven new legislators were elected.

All over town, lawyers, community activists and business owners are fighting to capture one of these seats. Up for grabs are the district seats held by retiring Democrats Frank DiCicco, Anna Verna, Joan Krajewski and Donna Reed Miller, as well as the Republican At-Large seat held by retiring Jack Kelly.

If you want in on the action, today is the last day to register to vote. In an effort to lay out the who's who and what's what, the Daily News will give you key details on each race in coming days.

First District

Open/contested: This race started with a group of challengers targeting Councilman Frank DiCicco for his participation in the controversial Deferred Retirement Option Plan, known as DROP.

DiCicco withdrew, leaving four men to seek his seat.

Who's running:

_ Jeff Hornstein, on leave from his job as an organizer for the Service Employees International Union.

_ Joe Grace, who served as communications director for Mayor Street and then as executive director for CeaseFire Pennsylvania, a gun control group.

_ Mark Squilla, a systems analyst for the state Auditor General's Office and president of the Whitman Council, a South Philly community group.

_ Vern Anastasio, an attorney and founder of the Bella Vista United Civic Association.

Debate: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Arch Street Friends House, 4th and Arch streets.

Key issues: In a race with no incumbent, everyone is talking about reforming the way the city and Council do business. The district is a real-estate hotbed, with gentrification blooming in the north and south, along with issues that crop up with rapid development.

Who's got the edge? This is shaping up to be a battle between Squilla and Hornstein, between the traditional South Philly ward politics supporting Squilla and the more tech-friendly young and well-educated voters to the north in Hornstein's Queen Village neighborhood, Center City and Northern Liberties.

Both will have good Election Day organizations. Squilla has the backing of DiCicco and Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Hornstein can count on his union's help.

Grace initially positioned himself as the key DROP opponent, but lost that issue when DiCicco bailed on the race. He is recasting himself as a reform candidate.

Anastasio has challenged DiCicco before and is recasting himself as an outsider after playing a role in trying to unseat the leader of the 2nd Ward last year.