For years, Democrats David A. Clarke and John Ray have eyed each other warily on the D.C. Council, fully aware that one day they would likely be rivals for city leadership in the post-Marion Barry era.

While the two have remained relatively cordial on the stump in this year's mayoral campaign, they have sparred in the past. An exchange of letters in 1984, obtained recently by the Washington Post, indicates just how hostile the relationship became at times.

The exchange took place shortly after the May 1984 Democratic presidential primary in the District, which was won decisively by Jesse L. Jackson. On Election Day, Ray and Clarke, who were both supporting Jackson, encountered one another outside the voting booths at Backus Junior High School in Northeast Washington.

Backus is in Precinct 66, Ray's precinct and one of the highest-voting black precincts; Ray, an at-large council member, said he urged Clarke, the council chairman who is white, to stump for votes in predominantly white neighborhoods. "Jesse needs you in Ward 3," Ray recalled telling Clarke.

A few days later, Ray dashed off an angry note to Clarke, accusing him of using the Jackson campaign as "another tool to further your own political ambitions."

Ray said in the letter -- which he provided to a reporter -- that it was "unbelievable" to find Clarke working the polls "not in his own precinct, not in the precincts of Ward 3, Georgetown, Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle, or Capitol Hill."

"If you really wanted to help the man and the cause, surely you would have worked the precincts in the areas mentioned above, where your presence could have made a real difference in encouraging persons to vote for Jesse Jackson, rather than campaigning in predominantly black wards where you were clearly promoting yourself and not Jesse Jackson."

Ray also accused Clarke of pushing people out of the way to be near the cameras during Jackson's victory speech. "It was a downright insult to this history-making event and the civil rights movement," he wrote.

After being told that Ray had released his letter, Clarke provided a reporter two letters -- one that he said he sent to Ray, and the other, which he said he decided not to send.

In the letter he did send, Clarke said that he had prepared a response, but said that "more is needed than just an exchange of letters."

"The central theme of your letter is that you consider me to be a hypocrite," Clarke wrote. "It is difficult to write anything which you would accept as anything less than self-promotion or more hypocrisy."

He invited Ray and his wife, Sarah, to join him and his wife, Carole, to dinner to clear the air.

In the other letter, Clarke tells Ray that he had made stopping by Precinct 66 a regular practice since 1982, and that his appearance "was neither opportunistically conceived nor designed to affront you." Clarke also said he stood behind virtually "everybody else on the platform" during Jackson's victory party.

Clarke also wrote that he sees his role in the civil rights movement as part of his own struggle for freedom.

"This perspective . . . makes me see all of Washington as my city and to categorically reject that my mission is to work in the "white communities" as you suggest," Clarke wrote. "I represent the whole city, as do you, and I can and will go anywhere to present my views."

Even on the outcome of the proposed dinner, the two disagree: Clarke says Ray stood him up, while Ray says Clarke never gave him a firm date. More Coins for Ray's Coffers

John Ray's fund-raising gravy train continues chugging along. About 150 bigwigs showed up at the Four Seasons Hotel last Wednesday night for a Ray fund-raiser sponsored by prominent banker William B. Fitzgerald Jr.

Ray officials wouldn't disclose the take, but the suggested contribution was $500. Gay Alliance Rates Candidates

The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, one of the oldest gay organizations in the District, has given Clarke and council member Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4) 9.5 ratings out of a possible 10, tops among mayoral contenders.

Ray and D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy received extremely low ratings, in part because neither returned the group's questionnaires, officials said. Ray was given a 1.5 rating, and Fauntroy was rated 1.0.

Former police chief Maurice T. Turner Jr., the only Republican in the race, received a rating of 8, while lawyer Sharon Pratt Dixon received a rating of 2.5. According to the Washington Blade, Dixon was docked because she seemed to defend Georgetown University's past practice of refusing to recognize gay groups as an exercise of religious freedom.