Lewis E. Lehrman, a former N.Y. gubernatorial candidate with trademark red suspenders, is teaming up with Washington consultant Jeffrey Bell, and the two hope they will be luckier in business than they were in politics.

Lehrman, a former drugstore magnate who tried to spend his way to the New York state governor's mansion and who narrowly lost to Mario Cuomo in 1982, will join the firm of Bell Mueller Cannon Inc., which will be renamed Lehrman Bell Mueller Cannon.

The firm provides monthly economic forecasts and political analysis to banks, brokerage houses, money managers, corporations and investors, relying heavily on information about the world money supply.

Bell, who lost a 1978 bid for the U.S. Senate to Bill Bradley after upsetting incumbent Sen. Clifford Case in the New Jersey Republican primary, has been trying to build up the firm for two years. It isn't profitable yet, but Bell said "I hope Lehrman can get us business." The firm has about two dozen clients.

The partnership represents a reunion for the two, who both worked for Citizens for America, a conservative political action committee organized by Lehrman.

Among other causes, the group had championed anti-communist guerrilla movements. Lehrman once traveled to the Angola bush headquarters of UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi, and he gave framed copies of the Declaration of Independence to Afghan, Laotian, Nicaraguan and Angolan rebels.

In his new job, Lehrman will remain in New York, where most of the firm's clients are and where Lehrman can keep tabs on the governor's mansion in Albany.

"My office is in New York, my house is in New York, the center of world capitalism is in New York," Lehrman said.

Although the GOP had scrounged around to recruit a Republican to run against Cuomo this year, Lehrman declined to enter the fray.

"It could happen again," he said, "I'm a rookie." But he added that he now has no plans for another campaign. He said that Cuomo "likes that little house he's got up there in Albany."

For the past two years, the former standard-bearer of the New York GOP and conservatives has been absent from the political scene. Lehrman has been a managing partner at Morgan Stanley & Co. since 1988, with its asset management division. He has been involved with marketing activities for the group, and less active in actual asset management. He is a close friend of Barton Biggs, head of the division.

Lehrman's departure from Morgan Stanley had been announced in May.

Before he ran for governor, Lehrman was president of Rite Aid Corp. He also backed a New York policy think tank called the Lehrman Institute, which was disbanded in 1988 amid controversy over Lehrman's involvement in the running of the institute. Some former members of the institute said that Lehrman believed it was too liberal.