SHARON DIXON'S campaign had some of the same strengths that her general message to the voters conveyed: just as she was the candidate for mayor who had not been part of the governing problem, so she was the candidate unencumbered by involvement with and obligation to big-money backers. This was not always a convenience. Mrs. Dixon didn't have the funds for a big organization or a TV sound-bite blitz. But in the end it was an advantage: she comes to her victory remarkably free of campaign burden. She does not have ugly ads to live down or apologize for, positions to pretend away, patrons to pay off. What she has to do now is begin to create the kind of operation that can take over the D.C. government smoothly if she beats Maurice Turner in November.

What Sharon Pratt Dixon always had was conviction and a message that struck a chord across the wards, color lines and generations of a city desperate for renaissance and for deliverance from the ravages of excess at city hall. Mrs. Dixon has, in a sense, won a second chance for the District of Columbia. All those brooms and shovels waving in the air at her victory celebration Tuesday night, accompanied by the chant of "Clean house!" were wonderfully indicative, we think, of what has been on people's minds.

John Ray, whose campaign operation had attracted coalitions of business, labor and other well-heeled groups, came away from what had to be an especially disheartening, unexpected defeat with exceptional generosity and grace. His concession -- in which he said Mrs. Dixon's victory "should be a great lesson to every youngster in this city. ... Never give up" -- was above and beyond the call of duty. Mr. Ray's continued presence on the D.C. Council, with his pledge of support for Mrs. Dixon, should be most valuable. Charlene Drew Jarvis, too, will remain a knowledgeable contributor.

The council will be missing two other valuable at-large members who sought other offices -- one whom we endorsed and one whom we did not -- both of whom served long, hard and honestly and whose commitment and contributions to local public service won them supporters across the city: David Clarke and Betty Ann Kane.

Still, the makings of a new era of constructive change in the District Building are present in the nomination of John Wilson to be chairman. For years, he has shown independence, intelligence and political courage. Depending on the election results of November, the combined talents in the executive and legislative offices could be formidable. There is new hope for Washington.