Polly Shackleton, the first lady and virtual matriarch of Democratice politics in Ward 3, stood in front of the poster proclaiming that "John Ray Works."

"We absolutely have to keep him on the council," Shackleton told more than 100 people in the white-walled offices of Lansdowne Catering Ldt., a reconditioned warehouse beneath the Whitehurst Freeway in Georgetown. "Him" is interim Councilman John Ray.

Then, with Ray standing by her side, Shackleton made an appeal for a big voter turnout in the May 1 special election to fill an at-large vacancy on the D.C. City Council. In the opinion of many, a big turnout for Ray in Ward 3 is crucial to his winning the election.

Shackleton did not have to mention by name the person many consider Ray's major opponent in the election former council member Douglas E. Moore. Later, Ray made the appropriate code-word references to Moore's candidacy, which Ray has been trying to portray as one of a reclusive and ineffective maverick politician.

"We have to move out of the position of confrontation between groups," Ray said."We're going to have to work together to communicate. I'm gonna talk to everyone." Implication: Doug Moore won't.

Political candidates do not have to openly campaign against Moore in Ward 3, the largely affluent and mostly white sector of the city west of Rock Creek Park. The ghost of Moore's past rhetoric-his talk of "little old ladies in tennis shoes on Connecticut Avenue" and his voice lack of concern if Georgetown were to drop off into the Potomac River-is in the back of many persons' minds.

"Doug Moore is not particularly popular in this area, as you can imagine," Shackleton explained to a reporter later.

Chet Sturm, a data controller who attended last night's affair, said, "Whenever I hear those two words, Douglas Moore, I think it's something not good for the city. Douglas Moore has presented a bad image."

In an election that is expected to be a close contest between Ray and Moore, despite the presence of nine other candidates in the field, many of Ray's supporters are hoping that the anti-Moore sentiments will combine with Ray's growing popularity in Ward 3 to assure a victory.

Shackleton, housewife Noel Miller and American University graduate student Ibby O'Leary were the sponsors of last night's affair. Many of those present were Ray campaign workers, who had come from the ranks of Mayor Marion Barry's fledgling political organization.

Last night, for example, it was lawyer Max Berry treasurer for the Barry campaign, who solicited contributions for Ray. The last question to the candidate, "What can we all do to help you?" came from Kay Campbell McGrath, a former Barry campaign aide who now works in the city planning department.

O'Leary, who had supported Ray in his long-shot and aborted campaign for mayor last year, said Barry's endorsement has changed the way her friends react to her overtures to support Ray.

Before, O'Leary said, her friends liked Ray but didn't think Ray could win. Now they believe Ray is not only a nice guy, she said, but a winner as well.

The other candidates in the at-large race are Jackson R. Champion, Stuart D. Rosenblatt, David G. Harris, Lin Covington, Richard Blanks Sr., Frannie Goldman, Warren A. Hemphill Sr, Hector Rodriguez and H. Chris Brown. CAPTION: Picture 1, DOUGLAS E. MOORE; Picture 2, JOHN RAY . . . Ray banking on big Ward 3 turnout to beat back opponent.