Harry M. Singleton, the Republican nominee for D.C. delegate, called on President Bush yesterday to sign the 1991 D.C. appropriations bill, despite the president's personal opposition to provisions that permit the public funding of abortions.

Singleton said he has told top White House aides that "it was not appropriate for the president to veto this legislation based on his views about abortion." He noted that the bill would permit only local tax dollars -- not federal money -- to be used to finance abortions for poor women.

"The District should be treated like any other jurisdiction as far as control over its money," Singleton said in a luncheon interview with reporters and editors of The Washington Post.

The D.C. spending bill, now under consideration by Congress, was one of several major matters on which Singleton took issue with Bush and other national Republican leaders.

Singleton, who faces Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton and three others in the Nov. 6 general election, also said he favored the civil rights bill that Bush vetoed yesterday and backed statehood for the District despite the president's opposition.

In general, Singleton sought to associate himself with the moderate Republicanism epitomized by the late Rep. Stewart McKinney (R-Conn.), and to play down the importance of party labels in a city where nearly nine of 10 registered voters are Democrats.

He said the election "is not about Republicans and Democrats and Independents . . . . It is about experience, honesty and integrity."

"As far as the District of Columbia is concerned, I see a lot of problems," said Singleton, 41, a lawyer who was a Department of Education civil rights officer in the Reagan administration. "I don't see us solving those problems with a bunch of ideology. I'm approaching this from a very practical standpoint."

Singleton said he and Norton have similar views about many of the major issues confronting the District, including what he described as the need for Congress to increase its $430 million annual federal payment to the District. "We pretty much are in agreement about what needs to be done," he said.

The difference between the two, Singleton said, is that he has more federal government experience, while, he said, Norton's credibility has been shattered by the recent revelation that she and her husband failed to pay D.C. taxes for seven years.

Norton, who headed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during the Carter administration, has said that her husband, Edward, traditionally handled the family finances and that she was unaware of his failure to file tax returns. But Singleton said he does not believe Norton's explanation.

"I just don't buy it," he said. "There's been a pattern and practice of her saying a bunch of different things on all of these issues. You never know what to believe."

"I just find it very hard to believe that someone professing to be an avowed feminist . . . supposedly in charge of her life, a law professor, a lawyer, was just totally in the dark for as long a period.

"I can see maybe a couple years," added Singleton, who last week released his tax returns and called on Norton to do the same. "But when you're talking about seven or eight years, that just stretches the imagination."

Singleton also had stern words for his Democratic opponent on several other fronts. He criticized Norton's stewardship of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, saying she left office with a backlog of cases and questions about her financial management of the agency. He also questioned her representation of a white supremacist group in a civil liberties case when she was a young lawyer in the late 1960s.

"If she felt strongly about the views of the Ku Klux Klan and what they stand for in this country with respect to blacks and Jews and other minorities . . . she could have recused herself and said I don't want to be involved," he said. The group Norton represented was called the National States Rights Party.

Singleton defended his record as an assistant secretary of civil rights in Reagan's Education Department and sought to distance himself from some of the most controversial civil rights policies of that administration.

He said that he vocally opposed the Justice Department's support of tax breaks for segregated universities and that he frequently took issue with positions of William Bradford Reynolds, then Justice's civil rights chief. He criticized Reynolds' efforts to encourage cities to unravel their affirmative action programs.

"I have nothing to hang my head about," he said. "I was not about to take a job like that and try to turn the clock back on civil rights."

Singleton expressed optimism about his campaign, despite the overwhelming Democratic advantage in voter registration. "A lot of people have been turned off by the {Norton} tax thing, a lot of people all over the city, black and white," he said.

"You saw some of that on September 11," he said, referring to the Democratic primary, which Norton won despite a sharp erosion of her support in the city's white neighborhoods. "I don't think the full impact of that, the full flavor, was fully appreciated -- if you will -- all over the city."

"The voters of this city want change," he added. "I don't think that party label is going to play a great role like it did in the past."

Singleton said he has started to receive some assistance from the Republican National Committee, but complained that he has received no help or money from the National Republican Congressional Committee. "Maybe they haven't focused on this," he said. "I don't know -- I'm baffled by it."