Democratic mayoral candidate Charlene Drew Jarvis has gained the endorsement of the politically influential American Federation of Government Employees, the latest in a series of important boosts for the Ward 4 D.C. Council member.

AFGE, one of the largest labor unions in the District, endorsed Jarvis and law professor Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democratic candidate for D.C. delegate, at a meeting Thursday night.

In the past few weeks, Jarvis has picked up support from the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city's major gay political organization, and from several former supporters of Mayor Marion Barry, including Barry's chief fund-raiser.

Yesterday, Barry's campaign treasurer, Charlotte Chapman, said she intends to support Jarvis as soon as she is formally "released" by Barry. Also, Anita Bonds, Barry's top political adviser, spoke with Jarvis recently about playing a role in her campaign, according to an informed source.

Another Barry lieutenant, Ward 1 activist Lawrence Guyot, is helping put together a meeting this morning to organize previously uncommitted activists in the city to support Jarvis.

"She is the closest person to Marion Barry in terms of style, strength and commitment," Guyot said. "Because I support Barry so strongly, I support Charlene Drew Jarvis."

"I think that Charlene is moving," said Max Berry, the former Barry fund-raiser now advising Jarvis. He contended that Jarvis is "in second place now" and gaining on D.C. Council member John Ray (D-At Large), who has led the other mayoral candidates in several polls. Those polls showed Jarvis far behind.

"If true," Jarvis said of the AFGE endorsement, "I'm very grateful for their confidence in my ability to be a good mayor."

Norton, a civil rights activist and Georgetown University law professor making her first foray into electoral politics, said she too is pleased by the union's support in her campaign to succeed Walter E. Fauntroy as the District's nonvoting delegate to the House of Representatives.

"This is one of the biggest and most representative unions in the city," she said. "It has workers in almost every conceivable category."

The focus now shifts to a meeting Monday night of the Washington Metropolitan Council of the AFL-CIO, which represents 75,000 local workers and is trying to reach a consensus on whom to endorse for mayor and delegate.

The labor community appears split, and some union leaders said it appears unlikely that any one candidate will gain the necessary two-thirds majority to win the AFL-CIO endorsement.

Ray already has been endorsed by the local police and fire unions, as well as by one of the Teamsters locals, while Council Chairman David A. Clarke (D), another mayoral candidate, has received the backing of a local of the Laborers Union. Meanwhile, labor sources say, local leaders of the Hotel & Restaurant Workers and of the Service Employees International Union are leaning toward Fauntroy's mayoral campaign.

AFGE has 35 locals in the Washington area with 18,000 federal and District workers. The union represents 6,000 D.C. government workers, including employees of the Public Works, Human Services and Employment Services departments.

AFGE sources said the union's endorsement came down to Jarvis and Clarke, who has also been seen as an ally of labor. Jarvis has been assiduously cultivating labor support in recent weeks.

Last week, she moved a bill out of her Housing and Economic Development Committee that would amend the city's workers' compensation law -- a top priority of the labor community in recent years.

One source said Jarvis was selected because "she has worked very well with us in the last several years and has always had an open door.

"She is a really brilliant individual who has struggled with tough issues to find a common ground," this official said. "People liked her. People also thought it was time for a woman."