Alexandria Mayor James P. Moran Jr. said yesterday that his opponent for Congress, Rep. Stan Parris (R-Va.), has repeatedly used "racist tactics" in his political career and said voters should "draw their own conclusions" on whether Parris is racially prejudiced.

In an interview with reporters and editors at The Washington Post, Moran said he has questions about Parris's racial attitudes based on his congressional voting record and past campaign strategies. But Moran declined to directly accuse Parris of racism, saying "I don't want to be tagging people with labels."

Moran, a Democrat who is challenging Parris to represent Northern Virginia's 8th Congressional District, also discussed his conviction on a conflict-of-interest charge in 1984, saying he learned from the incident but acknowledging that it has hurt him with voters. Moran also charged that Parris "doesn't deserve the position he's in . . . because he hasn't done much of anything."

Moran initially raised the racial issue last week but later said he regretted that it might become a campaign issue. At that time, Moran called Parris a racist, and Parris angrily accused Moran of McCarthyism. Parris has repeatedly denied he is racially biased.

Yesterday, Moran said he considers race a legitimate issue in his campaign against Parris. But he said he plans to restrict his criticism to Parris's public career and not to question Parris's personal feelings on the question.

"I don't think it's necessary or appropriate to call Stan Parris a racist," Moran said. "But I decry the racist tactics that at times have been employed by his political advisers and, I think, by him . . . . I'd much rather stick to the issues and let people draw their own conclusions."

Moran cited a series of stands Parris has taken that touch on racial questions, including Parris's opposition to economic sanctions against the apartheid government of South Africa and Parris's vote against the Civil Rights Act of 1990. Moran also said his campaign polls have found that some people support Parris because "he protects us from the District of Columbia."

Moran said he thinks most voters in Northern Virginia "don't feel they need to be protected from the District of Columbia. I think they see through what he's telling them. I don't think it cuts anymore. It shouldn't have cut in the first place, {but} unfortunately it did."

Parris has made Moran's conflict-of-interest conviction the centerpiece of his television advertising campaign, and Moran said yesterday it has had an effect. "They wouldn't be running it if their tracking polls didn't show it was hurting us," Moran said.

In 1984, Moran resigned from the Alexandria City Council and pleaded no contest to conflict of interest after casting a vote that aided a developer with whom he had a business relationship. He also repaid the city for a trip to Europe during which he conducted personal business.

"I will carry it with me for the rest of my life," Moran said. But he said that because the incident occurred early in his political career, it taught him a valuable lesson.

"I think if you're climbing up a ladder and you fall off on one of the first few rungs, the worst you do is get some bruises," he said. "You climb up more carefully next time."