The five D.C. Democratic mayoral candidates spent a typical election eve yesterday, shaking countless hands at Metro stops, wooing scores of senior citizens and taking part in one last debate for an acrimonious end to their yearlong primary contest.

It was a day like any other, but also one with special meaning for the District and the mayoral contenders who spent a record $2 million competing for the right to face nominees from the Republican and D.C. Statehood parties, who are unopposed for their respective nominations in today's primary elections.

For instance, John Ray, one of the leading Democrats, told a voter rally at Freedom Plaza that the impact of the primary would be felt for decades.

"The election is going to decide, probably for the next 20 years, the direction of our city," said Ray, an at-large D.C. Council member who has maintained a summer-long lead in fund-raising and published polls.

Each of the Democrats confidently predicted victory. Charlene Drew Jarvis, who with Sharon Pratt Dixon is regarded as Ray's strongest competitor, seemed positively jolly about the election, crooning an old James Brown tune during her appearance at the Freedom Plaza rally.

"I feel good . . . like I knew that I would!" Jarvis said.

Ray discounted the possibility of a last-minute boost for either Dixon, a local lawyer and former utility company executive, or Jarvis, who represents Ward 4 on the D.C. Council.

"I just don't see this great surge," Ray said. "There is no good news for them."

Ray said that for his part, "I'm ready to do my Baptist shout tomorrow," and danced in place for the benefit of a few reporters.

David A. Clarke, who is relinquishing his chairmanship of the council to run for mayor, wedged an appearance at the rally between stops at eight senior centers and rush-hour visits to three Metro stations.

Clarke told reporters he was putting his faith in the extensive telephone bank operation that had served him well in past elections.

Walter E. Fauntroy, who is giving up the congressional delegate's seat he has held for 19 years, invoked the heroes of the civil rights movement in his brief address to the rally, later picking up an 11th-hour endorsement from Hosea Williams and other well-known figures from that era of U.S. history.

The Democrats crisscrossed the District to focus on key precincts and voter groups. Jarvis, for instance, walked through Precinct 66 in Northeast Washington, a high-turnout neighborhood much coveted by citywide candidates.

After her appearance at the rally, which was hosted by shadow Senate candidate Jesse L. Jackson and his Rainbow Coalition, Dixon scheduled stops at Metro stations on opposite ends of the city: Benning Road and Potomac Avenue in Southeast and Tenley and Cleveland Park in Northwest.

Ray saved perhaps his biggest event for the evening: a rally for members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, a potentially potent voting bloc.

All five Democrats started their day together at 7 a.m., with a two-hour debate televised live on Channel 5's Fox Morning News.

After dozens of such encounters this summer, the candidates' lines were well rehearsed, but there were a few sparks, with Ray again a favorite target of the other four.

"Mr. Ray has allowed developers to set the agenda in this city," Jarvis said at one point, voicing a theme raised several weeks ago by Fauntroy, who complained about large contributions to Ray from the region's real estate industry.

Fauntroy, at 57 the oldest of the Democrats, needled Ray at one point by saying, "The reason you were able to run for office, Mr. Ray" was because of Fauntroy's role in devising the District's home rule charter.

Ray fired back when he had a chance: "Have some respect, Mr. Fauntroy, you're a minister."

There was one light moment during the forum when the moderator asked the five what they did for relaxation. Clarke said he likes bicycling, impressionistic art and classical music. Dixon said she adores movies. Jarvis said she favors low-impact aerobics and shopping in second-hand stores. Ray said he is a jogger and racquetball player.

Fauntroy said he loves sports and revealed another hobby. "I love to sing in the bathroom and shower," he said.