In a big red brick house off 16th Street two elderly people who have had their home robbed several times in the past few months are holding a get-together for their neighbor, Dr. Morris Harper, a well-mannered Harvard Medical School graduate who is running for the mayor.

The doctor, 34, has never held a political office, never even been active in public life in his neighborhood. But something has moved him to run for public office; not any public office, not Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, not the School Board, not even the City Council--but mayor of the District of Columbia.

"I want to be mayor because that is where the bus stops," Harper tells the audience of seven people gathered in the basement. "The City Council has a say in legislation, but there's no power to make the changes that need to be made to make this city run like a first-class city. Every department in the city reports to the mayor. The bus stops there."

Harper turns from one neighbor to another asking them if they are satisfied with city services. He gets grimacing, shaking heads all saying, 'No.' The owner of the house takes a deep drag on his cigarette when the talk turns to crime.

"And what about crime," Harper says to the man, a retiree who asks that his name and address not be used in the paper because it might attract even more criminals. "Do you feel safe in your home?"

The man, his cane across his lap, says: "Only when I'm sitting on my porch with a shotgun."

Among the nine candidates who have filed for the Democratic primary Harper is a totally unknown candidate, running for mayor because he is Mr. Outraged District Citizen, head out the window and, like a character in a movie, shouting, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

To his credit, Harper has raised more money for his campaign than any of the other virtual unknowns: $15,290 as of March 10. His ads have been on the radio.

But his campaign has still to catch on, he has still to show up in the polls, still to attract the donors or the endorsements, still to field even the skeleton of a political organization that could carry him to victory in the Sept. 14 primary.

He has still to disprove the apparent reality that even in a city on the brink of only its third election for mayor, winning major office already has become more than an "anyone-can" proposition.

Harper has some credentials that would appear to win votes in a town that sometimes defers to prestige, black history, liberal politics and professional degrees. The doctor is married to a fourth generation descendant of Dr. Nannie Helen Burroughs, the famous educator of black children after slavery. Like many other Washingtonians, he came here from North Carolina. He graduated from Howard University before going to Harvard. In 1980, he worked with Ted Kennedy's presidential campaign.

But these attributes are also found among the major candidates, among those with more experience, more name recognition, more money--more of a chance, in the view of many observers, of winning. John Ray has a Kennedy connection, too. Charlene Drew Jarvis is the daughter of physician Charles Drew, who perfected the method of preserving blood plasma. Patricia Roberts Harris is a lawyer and was a member of President Carter's Cabinet.

Still, Harper is nonstop with his criticism of incumbent Marion Barry, who he says has a "lousy record."

"We deserve to hold a mayor to higher standards of conduct," Harper tells his neighbors. "We have a right to that; after all, the mayor's office is the highest office we have. It projects an image not only locally but nationally. . . . It is no longer good enough to say, 'I've been there and I stood on the corner.' That's not enough."

Harper's remedy includes economic development. He wants to bring more jobs to the city. He wants to improve the schools. He City Hall Notebook A Mayoral Platform Based on Frustration By JUAN WILLIAMS Washington Post Staff Writer II n a big red brick house off 16th Street two elderly people who have had their home robbed I several times in the past few months are holding a get-together for their neighbor, Dr. Morris Harper, a well-mannered Harvard Medical School graduate who is running for mayor.

The doctor, 34, has never held a political office, never even been active in public life in his neighborhood. But something has moved him to run for public office; not any public office, not Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, not the School Board, not even the City Council--but mayor of the District of Columbia.

"I want to be mayor because that is where the bus stops," Harper tells the audience of seven people gathered in the basement. "The City Council has a say in legislation, but there's no power to make the changes that need to be made to make this city run like a first-class city. Every department in the city reports to the mayor. The bus stops there."

Harper turns from one neighbor to another asking them if they are satisfied with city services. He gets grimacing, shaking heads all saying, 'No.' The owner of the house takes a deep drag on his cigarette when the talk turns to crime.

"And what about crime," Harper says to the man, a retiree who asks that his name and address not be used in the paper because it might attract even more criminals. "Do you feel safe in your home?"

The man, his cane across his lap, says: "Only when I'm sitting on my porch with a shotgun."

Among the nine candidates who have filed for the Democratic primary Harper is a totally unknown candidate, running for mayor because he is Mr. Outraged District Citizen, head out the window and, like a character in a movie, shouting, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

To his credit, Harper has raised more money for his campaign than any of the other virtual unknowns: $15,290 as of March 10. His ads have been on the radio.

But his campaign has still to catch on, he has still to show up in the polls, still to attract the donors or the endorsements, still to field even the skeleton of a political organization that could carry him to victory in the Sept. 14 primary.

He has still to disprove the apparent reality that even in a city on the brink of only its third election for mayor, winning major office already has become more than an "anyone-can" proposition.

Harper has some credentials that would appear to win votes in a town that sometimes defers to prestige, black history, liberal politics and professional degrees. The doctor is married to a fourth generation descendant of Dr. Nannie Helen Burroughs, the famous educator of black children after slavery. Like many other Washingtonians, he came here from North Carolina. He graduated from Howard University before going to Harvard. In 1980, he worked with Ted Kennedy's presidential campaign.

But these attributes are also found among the major candidates, among those with more experience, more name recognition, more money--more of a chance, in the view of many observers, of winning. John Ray has a Kennedy connection, too. Charlene Drew Jarvis is the daughter of physician Charles Drew, who perfected the method of preserving blood plasma. Patricia Roberts Harris is a lawyer and was a member of President Carter's Cabinet.

Still, Harper is nonstop with his criticism of incumbent Marion Barry, who he says has a "lousy record."

"We deserve to hold a mayor to higher standards of conduct," Harper tells his neighbors. "We have a right to that; after all, the mayor's office is the highest office we have. It projects an image not only locally but nationally. . . . It is no longer good enough to say, 'I've been there and I stood on the corner.' That's not enough."

Harper's remedy includes economic development. He wants to bring more jobs to the city. He wants to improve the schools. He supports mandatory minimum sentences for crimes committed while armed. And, Harper says, he wonders how a city government that claimed to have a budget deficit for two years can produce a surplus in an election year.

Occasionally, Harper will get some encouragement. After the recent meeting at his neighbor's house, Nobel White, who saw Harper for the first time, said: "You see the present people, and they have been in office before, so you have to ask what they have done. You look at the city and you have to wonder. He Harper may not have much experience in politics but he is a doctor. He has a brain. The experience is not as important as the ability to reason, to figure out what is going on."

To that, Harper says, Amen. And for him, like others, the hope remains, despite conventional political wisdom that would suggest victory is unlikely.

"Why do you have to be a politician to be in politics?" he asks. "Have you been down to city hall recently? It takes you two to three days to get done what you should be able to do in an hour. The current system does not work." Picture1: Morris Harper supports mandatory minimum sentences for crimes committed while armed. And, Harper says, he wonders how a city government that claimed to have a budget deficit for two years can produce a surplus in an election year.

Occasionally, Harper will get some encouragement. After the recent meeting at his neighbor's house, Nobel White, who saw Harper for the first time, said: "You see the present people, and they have been in office before, so you have to ask what they have done. You look at the city and you have to wonder. He Harper may not have much experience in politics but he is a doctor. He has a brain. The experience is not as important as the ability to reason, to figure out what is going on."

To that, Harper says, Amen. And for him, like others, the hope remains, despite conventional political wisdom that would suggest victory is unlikely.

"Why do you have to be a politician to be in politics?" he asks. "Have you been down to city hall recently? It takes you two to three days to get done what you should be able to do in an hour. The current system does not work."