Four years ago, Johnnie Scott Rice ran a distant second to Ward 7 incumbent D.C. Council member H.R. Crawford in the 1984 Democratic primary.

"I started my {new} campaign when I lost the last race and that was no secret," said Rice, a native Washingtonian who is challenging Crawford again in the Sept. 13 Democratic primary.

Rice, a resident of Massachusetts Avenue SE and president of her block club near Fort Dupont Park, has 10 years' experience working for three council members. Now she says she wants a turn at the real thing, to be a council member herself.

"My name recognition is now better," Rice said in a campaign interview.

But Rice, whose intense personal dislike for Crawford, some say, helps drive her campaign, is striving uphill. Although she believes her background qualifies her well for the council seat, she is running in a crowded field that may split the vote and work in favor of Crawford, who enjoys an incumbent's advantage.

In addition to Rice and two lesser known challengers, Crawford is facing Ward 7 school board member Nate Bush, who is trying to make the leap to the council, relying on his established neighborhood contacts and organization in the ward.

Rice and Bush said they talked about their campaigns and whether one of them should drop out to improve the chances of defeating Crawford, but neither agreed to abandon the race.

"I believe I will win," said Rice when asked about the negotiations with Bush. "The people in Ward 7 know that we haven't gotten the kind of service we need from either the school board or the council."

Rice has raised litte money to offset the campaign war chest of Crawford, who has raised about $88,000. She said she and her husband, John, a Metro utility supervisor, have been boosted by volunteers and a determined effort to walk door-to-door in neighborhoods.

Rice, 47, a former executive secretary of the D.C. Human Rights Commission, said she is campaigning on promises to bring more economic development to the area, better social services and constituent services -- general themes that Bush, the other candidates and Crawford himself tout at campaign meetings.

The ward's middle-class sections, where residents live in town houses and suburban-style neighborhoods, are overshadowed by the ward's troubling crime, drug and housing problems, said Rice, who faulted Crawford for not raising the image of the ward.

Rice is steering clear of discussing an investigation of Crawford by the U.S. attorney's office, saying that voters would make judgments about it for themselves.

However, Rice, a former public relations staff member for Metro, said she believes that the city's business community "doesn't respect" Crawford.

Business interests see Southeast Washington as a "ghetto" and "don't perceive us as the kind of people who are politically astute or people who care. That's not true," she said.

Rice, however, has drawn little business support for her campaign, support that she acknowledges tends to favor incumbents such as Crawford.

"I encourage open participation for all, not just for the well-connected few," said Rice, who contends that Crawford politicizes his constituent services. Rice said Crawford's office does not keep community leaders, Advisory Neighborhood Commission members and other politically active groups fully aware of community issues. She has promised to begin a wardwide information service if she is elected.

Rice, who has lived in the 4000 block of Massachusetts Avenue SE for 13 years, most recently worked for D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) as a legislative and constituent service aide. Schwartz, a friend of Rice who has announced her retirement from the council, has remained out of the Democratic battle.

Though she is running in a predominantly Democratic ward, Rice doesn't shy away from discussing her political association with Republican Schwartz, including her work for Schwartz in the council member's 1986 race against Mayor Marion Barry.

"I always say, and it's true, that working for Carol gives you a citywide exposure," Rice said. "Carol Schwartz did not get elected to the council on a total Republican vote or a white vote. Democrats voted for her. Blacks voted for her. I thought she was the best candidate." Rice said that she was aware that some would criticize her and that "it took a lot of strength and leadership" to back Schwartz.

Rice previously has worked for former council chairman Sterling Tucker as his office manager and former Ward 7 council member Willie Hardy, both Democrats.

Rice, a 1958 graduate of Eastern High School, attended business schools and previously operated Office Mates, a personnel hiring firm. She is an officer in the National Political Congress of Black Women and executive director of Citizens Redirecting Youth, an antidrug group.

Rice's one regret this year, she said, is that her younger brother, a city police officer who retired on disability, did not live to see the end of the campaign. He died during the Fourth of July weekend.

Said Rice, "I'm going to win this for him."