D.C. City Council Chairman Arrington Dixon, who is running for reelection, opened his campaign office yesterday with the help of a 20-car motorcade downtown. Richard S. Lee, owner of a small business who is running for the Ward 5 council seat, simply jumped in his car and drove from his Upshur Street NE home to his campaign office.

But when the candidates arrived at their respective podiums on opposite sides of town, they delivered much the same message to their audiences: each promised to work to promote economic development in the city and create more jobs for District residents. Their statements about their opponents, however, were much different.

Lee, 38, a one-time Peace Corps volunteer and political newcomer who runs a flower shop in Northwest, declared at his 12th Street NE campaign headquarters that incumbent William R. Spaulding had "the worst attendance record on the City Council."

He also criticized two other candidates in the Democratic primary, former City Council member Douglas E. Moore and Robert I. Artisst, an associate professor at the University of the District of Columbia.

None of the three could be reached for comment yesterday.

Dixon, 40, who is in a close race with former City Council chairman Sterling Tucker and council member David A. Clarke (D-Ward 1), did not mention either of his opponents by name during a short campaign speech whose theme was "defending the dream" of local home rule and self-government.

Instead, before a standing-room-only audience at his downtown campaign headquarters on 11th Street NW, Dixon pledged to "provide better schools for our children . . . and more jobs for our citizens."

The city's Democratic primary is scheduled for Sept. 14.