The D.C. political rumor mill worked overtime this week as two of the five Democratic mayoral candidates were said to be dropping out of the race.

Campaign organizations accused one another of spreading the word. And the more mischievous accused the targets of the rumors -- Sharon Pratt Dixon and Walter E. Fauntroy -- of creating the talk themselves to boost faltering campaigns.

It's not something they talk about for the record, but most of the mayoral candidates and their advisers wish that Dixon, a lawyer and former utility executive, would just go away.

She's brash and aggressive, she often circumvents political protocol to go directly to voters and she has continued to run hard long after political forecasters predicted she would drop out of the race.

Dixon has little money and few endorsements. This week one of her few prominent backers, the Rev. Willie F. Wilson, of Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast, dropped off her campaign roster to back Democrat John Ray.

But she continues to rally voters with her spirited anti-Barry rhetoric, and for many she is a fresh face at a time when most District residents have grown weary of government- related scandals and controversy.

In the final weeks of the campaign, Dixon has her fingers crossed that the thousands of voters who have yet to decide on a candidate will turn to her. Recent polls have shown that she has appeal among white voters, who could have a critical say in choosing the next mayor.

In short, some politicos are beginning to see the 5-foot-2 1/2 Dixon as a spoiler of more behemoth proportions.

When rumors began circulating this week that she was dropping out, Dixon accused her opponents of setting a "political ambush" for her.

"I'm stronger now than I've ever been," she said. "It tells me a lot about my strength that they have gone through this much to get me."

Sources close to the Dixon campaign contend that the Fauntroy and Ray camps recently sent representatives to offer Dixon the post of city administrator in their administrations if she agreed to drop out before the Sept. 11 primary. When Dixon refused to make a deal, sources say, the campaigns went public with rumors that she was going to throw in the towel.

This claim immediately touched off a bitter exchange between the candidates and kept the fax machines humming for hours. Ray denied the rumor, saying, "I have made no such approaches, nor has anyone on my campaign staff."

Robert Johnson, manager of Fauntroy's campaign, said only, "We make it a practice not to confirm or comment on rumors."

The next day, Johnson found himself having to respond to "dropout" rumors about his candidate. The Fauntroy campaign accused Charlene Drew Jarvis's campaign of being the culprit.

"In an apparent, desperate attempt to stymie the swelling ranks of D.C. registered voters who want new, unbought, and unbossed leadership," the Fauntroy campaign said in a statement, "persons associated with the Jarvis campaign are spreading a rumor that . . . Fauntroy is pulling out of the race and endorsing mayoral candidate Charlene Drew Jarvis."

Jarvis responded that the Fauntroy charges are untrue.

"The Fauntroy campaign is drowning and seeks to drown the voters in a sea of rhetoric," she said by fax. "Even Fauntroy recognizes that the race is between me and Mr. Ray."

According to a survey conducted last month by pollster Ronald Lester on the mayor's race, Ray led with 31 percent, compared with Jarvis with 18 percent, Fauntroy with 14 percent, David A. Clarke with 9 percent and Dixon with 8 percent.

Among white voters, Ray led with 28 percent, compared with Dixon with 18 percent, Clarke with 16 percent, Jarvis with 10 percent and Fauntroy with 7 percent.

"Dixon has moved ahead of Clarke among white voters, and they are trying to force her out of the race so John {Ray} has the white vote to himself," a Dixon campaign source said.

Also, although the Lester poll showed 20 percent of voters were undecided about whom to support, Dixon and Fauntroy campaign staffers claim that unscientific tracking polls they have performed recently show that the "undecided" vote has grown to more than 50 percent since the verdict in Mayor Marion Barry's drug and perjuy case.

"Why should I quit?" Dixon asked. "I've weathered the storm so far . . . . The swelling in the undecided numbers is a clear indication that the public is ready to make a break from the status quo. I feel really good about how things have been breaking."

Johnson, who commissioned the Lester poll for use by a group of black businesses, said that the large percentage of undecided voters shows that the Fauntroy campaign has succeeded in "punching away" at Ray and has "planted a seed of doubt" in the public's minds about the propriety of the large amounts of money coming into Ray's campaign.

"We think Walter Fauntroy will benefit directly from that," he said. "The more {Ray} surrounds himself with the Barry crowd, the more people are beginning to say John Ray is 'Back to the Future.' "

Joslyn Williams, a labor leader and chairman of the D.C. Democratic State Committee, said that the rumors should serve only as a reminder of how close election day is.

"They should be taken not only with a grain of salt," he said, "but with a full salt shaker."