Many of the seats in the church basement were empty. But in the candidate's eyes, the campaign was at least half full.

"My phone was ringing all day yesterday," said Douglas E. Moore, the former D.C. council member, assessing the turnout for his Ward 5 campaign announcement rally yesterday. "They were all supporters with other commitments calling to say they wouldn't be able to come."

Moore spent a stormy term as an at-large council member after winning strong support in the first city elections under home rule. Yesterday he told a group of about 50 people at Faith United Church of Christ in upper Northeast that he had "come back kicking" to enter this year's Ward 5 race.

"I will," he told them, waxing his most serious, "answer the call."

Moore has been largely absent from city politics since he lost a 1978 bid for the council chairmanship and was defeated by council member John Ray in an at-large race in 1979. Last year he spent six months in jail for biting a tow truck driver during a 1975 fight behind the District Building.

But the Methodist minister and former community activist was never one to fade in the face of adversity.

"There were some, namely Mayor Marion Barry, who prematurely said Doug Moore was dead," he told the group. "Well, Doug Moore is alive and coming back kicking."

His oratory started as sweet as a spring crocus, but twisted with irony and sarcasm until it ended with the snap of a Venus fly trap. He sharply criticized current Ward 5 council member William R. Spaulding, citing revenue figures in an attempt to show that the incumbent has done nothing to prevent what Moore called inequitable real estate taxes being assessed against homeowners in the ward.

"Because we have such a joke for a councilman," Moore said, "somebody decided to dump on this ward, because they know that stumbling, bumbling Bill Spaulding would not open his mouth."

He also blamed Spaulding for foul-ups in the city's election apparatus. "If we lived in Mississippi, or Georgia or North Carolina and 34,000 people disappeared from the voting rolls, we would have on our marching shoes," Moore said. "Well, we are going to put on our marching shoes in November and retire Mr. Spaulding."

Spaulding, elected to the council in 1974, is expected to seek reelection but has not yet announced. He and Moore are Democrats, and would face each other in the Sept. 5 primary.

Of his jail sentence, Moore said: "It was purely political. We been going to jail ever since we were on those slave ships," a sentiment that won him unanimous applause and shouts of "right on."

"Sometimes," said Fred Heutte, a Ward 5 resident and the father of a Moore campaign worker, "being in jail is a badge of honor."