One more plug for the candidacy of Sharon Pratt Dixon, the audacious woman who wrested the Democratic nomination for mayor from a collection of much better financed and patronized competitors. Mrs. Dixon alone spoke to the city's understanding of the need to "clean house" and was not only clear on the moral implications of Mayor Barry's behavior but had the guts and the confidence in the voters to speak out on this critical issue, while the others for the most part moused around. She is also a hard-eyed realist on the magnitude of the economic troubles facing the city, a precondition of dealing with them seriously. A Dixon administration would do much to enlarge congressional and presidential understanding of the federal obligations to the District, and this is of paramount importance. Vote for her.

Would that the choice for the District's nonvoting delegate to Congress had been so simple. The official job of emissary to the U.S. House of Representatives is changing hands for the first time since the job of delegate was created a couple of decades ago. The choice here is, to us, tough but clear. Our early hopes for Eleanor Holmes Norton were destroyed, first by stunning revelations of years and years of failure to pay her District taxes, or even pay attention to them, and then by eight weeks of floundering, temporizing and dodging attempts to get her to fully explain the record and lay to rest worries that there might be more. This, it seemed and still seems to us, was her minimal obligation to the electorate she seeks to represent -- especially as the delegate's job is largely to persuade a reluctant Congress to appropriate more funds for the District, and the tax question goes directly to her capacity to perform this function credibly on the Hill. Mrs. Norton repeatedly counters that her integrity is well-established and well-known. But the tax scandal is precisely about her integrity. We wish she had taken the right and obvious steps to dispel the doubts it has raised.

We concluded that Harry Singleton was the better prospect this time -- and we still think so, even given his corroboration Friday evening of 1984 testimony related to his divorce in which he said he had "occasionally" smoked marijuana -- "probably five" times in the three years before then. Mr. Singleton's turbulent divorce ended with his being awarded custody of the couple's two children -- a not-insignificant finding in judging his statements. It is noteworthy too that the attorney who represented his former wife said Friday that "nothing in terms of either side's allegations" was "ever substantiated."

While this doesn't excuse the smoking of pot, which is against the law, the failing, in our view, is not on the same level as failing for the better part of a decade to meet the terms of D.C. tax laws and then declining to disclose any but the barebones facts of it. We said the choice wasn't easy or simple, but it is between these two people, not two others, and it still seems to us clear. Mr. Singleton has the knowledge of the Hill and of the District to do a good job; he understands the system and pledges to work with the mayor for the objectives of the city government. It is a two-year term, and it is an important two years to turn around attitudes on the Hill. We persist in believing that he is in the better position to make the case.

The D.C. Council should be under good new management with the election of John Wilson as chairman. Throughout even the worst days for the District's reputation, Mr. Wilson stood up impressively as a financial watchdog and an outspoken critic of Mayor Barry's excesses. But he does not need Mr. Barry, who is running for a seat, as a member of his council. Nor do the new mayor and delegate need the haunting reminder of the city's difficulties. Mr. Barry has enough to do for himself at this point, anyway.

The two at-large council seats can be filled by two first-rate, experienced and politically sensitive local public servants, Linda Cropp and Hilda Mason. They are the ones to vote for. It is a critically important election.

The contests for four ward seats on the council are less exhilarating. In Ward 1, Frank Smith would do well to show a broader interest in service to his constituents. In Ward 3, incumbent Democrat Jim Nathanson has been a disappointment. His go-along-to-get-along politics got him in constituent trouble on a vote on a resolution involving Minister Louis Farrakhan, and his preoccupation with much routine legislation didn't help. Unfortunately, his opposition, Republican Julie Finley and independents Jim Kalish and Suzanne Finney, offer no solid alternative. Mr. Kalish boasts the most knowledge of the local government, but his positions -- a pledge to cut 10,000 people from the payroll (five times the number Mrs. Dixon has talked about) and his support for the preservation of the old Initiative 17 on the homeless by supporting Referendum 005 this time -- are but two of his views that are ill-advised. In Ward 5, Harry Thomas is headed for a return engagement, extending the record for mediocre council service to a ward that deserves far better. Ward 6 is producing a note of optimism, having selected Harold Brazil as the Democratic nominee to replace Nadine Winter.

Voters should pay special attention this year to the school board contests, too, for the all-important fact that this board will have the final word on the next superintendent -- and thus on the speed with which the recommendations for improvements produced by a special study are put into effect. Every voter has at least the lone at-large contest to decide. Jay Silberman is the best choice. In Ward 2, R. David Hall deserves to be returned. In Ward 4, Priscilla Arlene Gay is informed and easily tops a crowded field. In Ward 7, Nate Bush has a record as a board member that is better than his record as board president, enough to earn him reelection. In Ward 8, the best choice for the parents, principals, teachers -- and yes, the children -- is Linda Moody, who seeks to upset the irresponsible meddler, R. Calvin Lockridge.

We do not regard the voting for so-called "shadows", for pretend U.S. Senators and a pretend House member as the same kind of responsibility involved in selecting the candidates for full-fledged, accredited local offices. We would note only that in the "House" shadow contest, Charles Moreland is yet another Democrat seeking to go up to the House of Representatives with a record of nonpayment of taxes.

Finally, the language of Referendum 005 is about as confusing as it could be. If you agree that the old Initiative 17 was poorly drafted and needed the improvements the council has tried to make -- we do -- vote "against" on the ballot this time.