The normally refined and genteel politics of Ward 3 in Northwest Washington have suddenly turned nasty.

The ward's D.C. Council member, Jim Nathanson, a Democrat, is accusing Republican Julie Finley of "smear" tactics in her campaign to unseat the first-term incumbent. What's got Nathanson and his supporters in a lather is a series of controversial telephone calls to Ward 3 residents last week by a telemarketing company hired by Finley.

Nathanson said the callers telephoned Ward 3 voters on the pretext that they were doing a poll about the council race, but asked questions that he said falsely implied that he favors higher taxes and distorted his position on Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

Finley acknowledges hiring the company -- Advanced Communications, headed by longtime Republican operative Vic Gresham -- but says the questions simply were factual statements about Nathanson's record.

One of the questions on the script, she said, was: "Would your vote be influenced if you knew that your present councilman, Jim Nathanson, did not take a stand on a resolution which strongly praised Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam?"

Nathanson abstained from a ceremonial council resolution last year praising the Nation of Islam for the work it did in driving drug dealers from the Mayfair Mansions housing project. Nathanson has since said he was against the resolution but chose not to kill it, as he could have, out of deference to the feelings about the resolution in other parts of the city.

Since the calls went out a week ago, Nathanson says he has received numerous calls from angry constituents. "They thought it was done in a way that was smeary," he said.

Finley expressed surprise that Nathanson even was concerned about the calls. "I don't know why he is paying any attention to me," she said. "He's the one who made the votes. It's his record." The Ties That Bind

Mayoral candidates Sharon Pratt Dixon and Maurice T. Turner Jr. and others are talking about a new day for the city in Congress, after several years of repeated congressional efforts to alter various D.C. laws, from abortion funding and gay rights to whether the city should be allowed to tear down the suicide prevention barriers on the Duke Ellington Bridge.

But those who paid careful attention to the recent debate over the D.C. appropriations bill know that the congressional desire to retain control over the affairs D.C. government remains strong. Here's what Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Calif.) had to say recently during the debate over abortion and the D.C. budget, according to the Congressional Record:

"Mr. Speaker, the governor of the District of Columbia is not the disgraced mayor who is going to be sentenced for cocaine possession next week. The governor of the city of the District of Columbia is this body. This chamber and the other chamber function as the governor general of the city, and, as long as there is commingling of tax funds, whether it is locally raised or augmented by this House, then those of us in this chamber must work as an aggregate to try and stop the killing, if we may . . . . " Bash for Barry

Tonight, what's left of the tattered Barry army turns out for one final hurrah at a fund-raiser sponsored by restaurauteur Stu Long that is being billed as a "Go-Go in honor of Marion Barry."

The party for Barry's D.C. at-large council race will be held at Quigley's Midtown at 1825 I St. NW.

Donations of $40 to $500 are requested. A Refreshing Change

Even though she remains the longest of long shots, Libertarian Nancy Lord has emerged as the Daniel Patrick Moynihan of the D.C. mayoral campaign this year, continuing to produce some of the most interesting ideas of any candidate.

Last week, Lord wrote a lengthy treatise in the City Paper on the District's budget problems that argued for a significant downsizing of the D.C. government and a redirection of resources away from what she believes to be the destructive "war on drugs." While not without flaws, the paper was far more detailed and comprehensive than any statement on the budget from Democratic nominee Dixon or Turner, the Republican nominee.

Now, Lord has issued "Freedom & Free Enterprise: Bringing Economic Opportunity to the District of Columbia." Among her controversial proposals: eliminating many of the city's licensing laws, reforming property taxes to put a heavier burden on undeveloped land and the abolition of rent control.