An architect, a Metro black laborer, a contractor, several business consultants and a number of others are seeking election to the City Council in the Nov. 4 election. But here in the District, one designation carries more weight than other: Democrat.

The council election comes at a crucial time for the city. Members elected next month will have to grapple with a hydra-headed budget crisis that already has necessitated higher taxes, widespread layoffs and cutbacks in city services; the explosive issue of rent control; a public school system widely viewed as substandard; the flight of black middle-class families to the suburbs; and a host of other pressing problems.

Still, this fall's council campaign is more of a ritual than anything else, a kind of minuet in which the players have gone through the motions but have generated little apparent enthusiasm among voters. It is axiomatic in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly a 10-to-1 margin that the real excitement at the polls comes during the primary contests. Democrats are rarely defeated in D.C. general elections, and this year's balloting is expected to hold true to form.

The most active campaign has been in the contest for the two at-large council seats.Democratic incumbent John L. Ray is favored to win reelection handily, but 11-year council veteran Jerry A. Moore, just coming off a tough Republican primary challenge, finds himself once again the target of a vigorous campaign -- this time, from independent candidate Joel Garner, who unleashes a verbal attack on Moore at every opportunity.

The four other contests -- in Wards 2, 4, 7 and 8 -- have featured heavily favored Democrats dutifully tracing the intricate pattern of fund-raisers, public forums and early-morning handshaking at bus stops, all the while being harried by Republican, Statehood and various independent candidates who for the most part acknowledge that they have little chance to stop the Democratic juggernaut. Still, they hope for a miracle.

The election is likely to produce only one new council member -- realtor H. R. Crawford, the Democratic candidate for the Ward 7 council seat being vacated by the retiring Willie J. Hardy. Crawford defeated Johnny Barnes and Emily Y. Washington in a hard-fought primary contest in September.

The city's resurgent but still outnumbered Republicans take pride in the fact that for the first time in recent memory, they have at least fielded a full slate of candidates for all of the contested council seats. The Statehood Party hopes that one of its candidates draws at least the minimum number of votes -- about 8,000 -- required for the party to retain its ballot line and status as an official party.

Following is an overview of the council races: At-Large

Seven candidates -- including incumbents Ray and Moore -- are competing for two contested at-large council seats. Moore is under strong attack from the 33-year-old Garner, a researcher for the U.S. Department of Justice.

Garner hammers repeatedly at Moore's stance in support of GOP presidential candidate Ronald Reagan, and also stresses his own support of rent control and restrictions on condominium conversion. By attacking Moore's role in approving controversial alley closings that have paved the way for new commercial development, Garner has attempted to align himself with the historic preservation movement, whose candidate, Joseph N. Grano, gave Moore a strong run in the primary.

Garner contends that he is not running against Ray or any of the other candidates -- only against Moore. Actually, however, the two top finishers win the council seats, and no candidate actually runs against a specific opponent.

Moore sometimes becomes vexed at Garner's aggressive approach. "Brother Garner over there doesn't know what I stand for," Moore boomed sarcastically at a forum at Marbury Plaza. But Moore says he is confident of victory and he is a proven vote-getter. Moore, a Baptist minister, traditionally draws heavy support from Democrats.

Charles Cassell, a 56-year-old architect, is the at-large candidate of the Statehood Party. Cassell's campaign has two essential aims -- to draw the necessary 8,000 votes for the party to retain its official status, and to publicize that statehood initiative also on the ballot, which would set in motion the complex process required for the District to become the 51st state.

Three independent candidates are also vying for election at-large: Charlotte R. Holmes, a 53-year-old budget analyst for the federal Small Business Administration; Maurice Jackson, the 30-year-old D.C. and Virginia coordinator of the Communist Party USA; and Glenn B. White, a 26-year-old Metro track laborer campaigning on the platform of the Socialist Workers Party.

Holmes favors a program of tax credits to encourage the expansion and renovation of the city's housing stock, and a general increase in governmental efficiency.

Jackson and White both favor sharply increased business taxes as a way of handling the city's budget crisis. Both are against any layoffs of government workers. Jackson favors a city takeover of utilities like the Potomac Electric Power Co. and the C & P Telephone Co., while White argues for massive employment and training programs. The two left-wing candidates have generally been well received at community forums, but do not appear to have attracted any broad base of support.

Incumbent Ray, who has acknowledged an interest in seeking higher office someday, is running hard despite a landslide victory in the September primary and his status as an almost pre-emptive favorite in November. He stresses the need for a comprehensive set of policies to handle interrelated problems like unemployment, crime and housing.

Ray the Democrat and Moore the Republican have formed an informal coalition, with Ray being careful not to attack Moore in his stump speeches and Moore sometimes giving an open invitation "for all of you to vote for John Ray as well," as he did at Marbury Plaza.

Moore trumpets his 11 years of experience on the council, and tells audiences that many of their complaints -- about things like the city's troubled school system and the unresponsiveness of the District's government bureaucracy -- are not the direct responsibility of the council. Garner, on the other hand, maintains that the city government is "totally disorganized," and promises to increase efficiency. Ward 2

Incumbent Democrat John A. Wilson, 36, who raised more than $60,000 for his primary election campaign, is opposed by GOP candidate Ann Kelsey Marshall, a 29-year-old free-lance writer.

Both favor streamlining of the District government bureaucracy. One of the primary issues dividing the two is rent control. Wilson strongly favors it; Marshall says rent control has not worked, and instead favors tax incentives to foster construction and renovation of rental housing.

The ward contains both some of the richest and the poorest neighborhoods in the city, stretching in a broad band from the posh Watergate complex to the boarded-up brownstones of Shaw. Ward 4

Charlene Drew Jarvis, the incumbent Democrat, is being challenged by retired D.C. government worker and business consultant Israel Lopez, running on the Republican ticket. Lopez, 56, has papered the residential neighborhoods of upper Northwest with campaign posters and is making the rounds of candidates' nights and public forums. But Ward 4 traditionally turns out the highest number of Democratic voters of any ward in the city. Jarvis, 39, was unopposed in the September primary and is expected to win reelection.

Lopez, like most of the other Republican council contenders, favors more sharp cuts in the District bureaucracy. Ward 7

Realtor H. R. Crawford won the Sept. 9 Democratic primary by defeating his opponent in all but six of the ward's precints, managing a clean sweep of the less affluent neighborhoods of far Northeast, north of Fort Dupont Park, and holding his own in precints south of the park. Crawford, 42, is opposed by 47-year-old Republican candidate John West, a contractor who promises to bring business knowledge to the city legislature.

Two independent candidates are running in the Ward 7 race -- Maryland D. Kemp, a chemist who trumpets the need for revitalization of small businesses in the city, and Durand A. Ford, a 39-year-old business consultant who favors business tax incentives to promote commerical growth. Ward 8

Incumbent Democrat Wilhelmina J. Rolark was unopposed in the primary. In next month's election, she is opposed by Republican Leon F. Parks and independent candidate Kellis Sylvester.

Sylvester, 36, an Advisory Neighborhood Commission member who unsuccessfully sought the same seat four years ago, promises to work for better housing in the ward. A second independent, Leona Redmond, withdrew from the race for medical reasons.

Ward 8 is the poorest ward in the city, includes Anacostia and most of far Southeast and has the smallest number of registered Republicans of any ward. Veteran council member Rolark is considered a strong favorite to retain her seat.