Eight is the District's oft-neglected ward, the poorest in the city and one that draws scant attention from most citywide candidates, in part because of its relatively low voter turnout.

This year has been no different, despite the gesture that several candidates made to Ward 8 by opening satellite campaign offices there. Democratic mayoral candidates John Ray and Sharon Pratt Dixon have set up shop in the Southeast Washington ward, as has D.C. delegate candidate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D).

Although he is considerably weaker there compared with other wards, at-large council member Ray could carry Ward 8 in Tuesday's primary, but rivals Charlene Drew Jarvis and D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy also are expected to make respectable showings. Like Ray, council member Jarvis (D-Ward 4) has the backing of the many supporters of Mayor Marion Barry who live in the ward.

One of Fauntroy's earliest and most visible supporters is newspaper publisher Calvin A. Rolark, whose wife, Wilhelmina J. Rolark, represents Ward 8 on the D.C. Council.

Many community activists, including Concha Johnson, a Barry organizer-turned-Ray supporter, said they believe The Washington Post's endorsement of Dixon could backfire in the ward.

"It doesn't play and it could have a reverse effect," said Johnson, who has lived in Ward 8 since 1966. "A lot of people here don't trust The Post, and if The Post endorses, they think it must mean there's a reason to mistrust that candidate."

Delegate candidate Joseph P. Yeldell is the sentimental favorite of many Ward 8 residents; his brother, Robert, a longtime member of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 8E, is a well-known figure in the community.

Two of Yeldell's rivals, Norton and Sterling Tucker, also should do well in Ward 8, while council member Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large) has almost no chance of carrying the ward, observers said.

Although mayoral candidates have not actively campaigned in the ward, many of the issues they have discussed, including assistance for single mothers and ways to curb teenage pregnancy, hold considerable importance for voters there. Most of the contenders also have made strong pledges to empower the residents of Ward 8 economically, and to use the office to foster better housing and shopping services in the ward.

Nevertheless, it does not seem likely that Ward 8 will be an electoral powerhouse in the Democratic primary.

Voters in the ward represent just 8 percent of the total citywide registration -- the smallest share of all eight wards -- because only about half of the voting-age population of 45,200 is registered to vote.

At the same time, there has been a modest surge in Ward 8 registration since the beginning of the year, according to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.

Since January, Ward 8 registration increased by 18 percent, the largest percentage growth of any ward in the District and well above the citywide average of nearly 12 percent, the board said.

Population (1988): 74,500

Blacks: 90 percent

Whites: 9 percent

Hispanics: 3 percent

Median Income (1986): $17,000

Registered Voters: 24,087

Democrats: 20,508

Republicans: 761