IN A TOWN as heavily Democratic as this one, it may seem anti-climactic even to hold a general election. The Democratic primary, after all, is the main political event here, and the outcome of the delegate-to-Congress race, in the absence of a strong challenge to the incumbent, appears to be foreordained. Even so, there is good reason for all voters, Democrats included, to take a close look at the District council races. For the council -- despite its terrible current shortcomings -- remains crucial to any hope of dealing successfully with the city's financial plight and its shortage of affordable housing. Here is our view of those council races:

The at-large race has seen the most intense political combat. There are three candidates who could serve the city well, but only two will get the chance. The one candidate who clearly deserves an at-large seat is John Ray. He has proven to be an intelligent, concerned council member as evidenced by the hearings he held last year -- despite much handwringing and inaction on the part of others -- on the quality of the city's public schools.

To our mind, the choice for the other at-large seat comes down to a contest between Jerry A. Moore Jr. and Joel Garner. Mr. Moore, a Republican, has been on the council for 11 years and has served the city well as head of the transportation committee. His guidance for the city through Metrorail's construction and his service on the Metro board have been good. But he is being seriously challenged by Mr. Garner, a newcomer running as an Independent, who questions why Mr. Moore and the whole council did not do more to alert the city about its long-festering financial problems. He also points to the many defective laws passed by the council, with Mr. Moore in attendance, some of which the courts have overturned. One such law was the tax on professionals. Still, our support goes to Mr. Moore. His interest in providing incentives for the construction of rental housing by private developers suggests one important direction in which the council should be heading, and we think he's a valuable council member.

In Ward 2, there is another good race, this one between John A. Wilson, the imcumbent, and Ann Kelsey Marshall. No other ward has two candidates of such quality. The people would be well served by either candidate, but Miss Marshall's potential cannot outweigh the high quality of service Mr. Wilson has provided to Ward 2. We take issue with his stand in favor of rent control and many of his housing policies, but in every other area of city life, especially on the budget, Mr. Wilson has been productive. He has also served the varied constituencies in his word a fair hand. He deserves another term.

In Ward 4, the challenger, Israel Lopez, a Republican, has some good intentions: to solve the budget problem he would begin by getting "rid of most of the fat bureaucrats . . ." But how he would do it is not known. Although he is armed with some ideas, Mr. Lopez, is facing a formidable incumbent, Charlene Drew Jarvis. She has shown great skill in meeting the needs of her constituents in the five months she has been on the council. Mrs. Jarvis' fault is that she is too reticent about addressing citywide problems, and what suggestions she does make tend only to recommend ever more government-run programs. Even so, she has shown sufficient success in getting real services for her ward to merit support for a full term.

Ward 7 has the least attractive candidates for the council of any ward. The Democrat H. R. Crawford, has a history of public service and private dealings that is unimpressive. Mr. Crawford was fired from the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1976 for allegedly requesting private contracts with housing groups that did business with HUD. However, no criminal indictments were brought in that case. There is also some racial antagonism -- unnecessary and ugly talk -- in Mr. Crawford's presentations at word forums about the future of the city. Mr. Crawford's faults have not been properly featured in the campaign, however, because his opposition is generally weak and/or lacking money. There is one promising candidate who we think should be elected: Maryland D. Kemp, a chemist. He favors attempting to improve the city's tax base and employment picture by encouraging small businesses to expand with tax incentives, and he has developed other proposals that represent the kind of thinking the council should be engaged in.

In Ward 8, our choice is Wilhelmina J. Rolark over her Republican and Independent opposition. She has had four years of experience on the council and has shown, repeatedly, that she has the energy and personal commitment necessary to serve her ward. Mrs. Rolark recently helped to pass a bill to prevent utilities from unconditionally cutting off heat or other services to apartment buildings when owners do not pay their bills. She also recently helped to establish a civilian review board to look at charges of police misconduct. Mrs. Rolark may be faulted for her lack of imagination on some issues. But her vitality in representing her ward intelligently is impressive, and both Ward 8 and the council should be well served by her reelection.