With the election only 10 days off, the three leading candidates for mayor kicked off a three-day weekend of campaigning yesterday by making speeches, shaking hands and kissing babies in a frenzied attempt to win a contest that all three believe is still up for grabs.

For the two-main challenges to incumbent Mayor Walter E. Washington, Council Chairman Sterling Tucker and Councilman Marion Barry, and the fourth Democrat hopeful, Dorothy Maultaby, the day began with a candidates forum at the Shiloh Baptist Church, 9th and P Streets NW.

Barry, leading off the eight-minutes speeches, noted the mayor was absent, "as he is at 90 percent of these foruns," and told the audience of 100 that (if they don't come (to seek your views) before the election, they won't come afterwards."

While Barry had unkind words for both main rivals ("if Tucker believes so much in the city schools, ask him why his (kids are in privat ones?"), Tucker used his time to concentrate on Washington.

Tucker said that under his leadership, the council has exercised its full authority under home rule granted by Congress, while the executive branch, under Washington, "has yet to come into the home rule period." Instead, the mayor says "the city is booming," Tucker went on "Booming for whom? For those being evicted, for the jobless?"

Tucker said later he ignored Barry because "Walter Washington is the target," a belief stenghtened when he learn later in the day that the newest poll by the Washington neck-and-neck, with Barry still trailing.

A wedding scheduled in the steamy unairconditioned church mercifully shortened teh forum, which was sponsored by PUSH (People United to Save Humanity), and took the campaigns into the bright sunshine of a tailor-made campaign day.

Because he passed up the forum, the mayor got the jump on the handshaking circuit, visiting eight shopping centers in wards 3 and 5 between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Washington said he visited the shopping centers "because that's where the people are. I've been humping as I smell of victory out there."

Barry, in an open tan shirt and brown slacks, left the church and headed for the Giant supermarket at 14th and Otis Streets NW, accompanied by erstwhile mayoral candidate John Ray who, although his name will be on the ballot, has stopped campaigning and now supports Barry.

Working in a neighborhood in which his canvassers informed him that he needs to raise his profile, Barry passed out literature as tapes of his radio commercials played in the background. Ray, wearing an "I stand with Marion Barry" button, also worked the crowded store.

As Barry and Ray headed toward a stop at 711 Emeron St. NE, their car passed through a 50-vehicle motorcade organized by Tucker and his running mate, council chairman candidate Arrington Dinon, and their mentor, D.C. Delegate Walter E. Fauntroy.

The Faunstroy-Tucker-Dimon motorcade, featuring slogans, jingles and horn-honking as it weaved through the fifth and seventh wards for nearly six hours, drowned out the Barry tapes as their campaign trails crossed.

Fauntroy, while he has no opponent, appeared to be more vigorous than any of the candidates yesterday, and got the most enthusiastic reception at the PUSH forum.

All three candidates found the electorate in a good mood yesterday: people looked up from their Saturday chores of grass-cutting, car washing and home remodeling to wave and shout encouragement to the entourages.

Tucker, Dixon and Fauntroy danced in the rear of a stake-body pickup truck as their motorcade of mostly Cadillacs, Corvettes and cabs followed a serpentine course throughout Northeast and Southeast Washington. "Hold on Sterling," shouted Fauntroy after hearing about The Post poll, "we can't afford to lose you now."