Neal Potter, 75, a man who can look endearingly out of place at his own victory party, last night held one in the middle of exactly the kind of mammoth, super-developed shopping mall complex he has fought against at least since the Beltway destroyed his parents' farm in Montgomery County in 1961.

It was a fight that won him the Democratic nomination for county executive over incumbent Sid Kramer, whom he had identified with the sort of developers who built the Rockville Metro Center 2 complex his supporters gathered in to cheer as victory was assured shortly after 10 p.m.

"Is it an upset?" Potter asked after he had mastered the mechanics of choosing the right microphone. "You bet it is. We don't have to let single interest control the county."

Asked if the location of the party was an irony, he replied, "This particular complex was one of the outstanding failures of architecture, planning and management."

Not wishing to seem ungrateful for the service and atmosphere provided at Hagan's Four Courts Restaurant, Potter quickly added, "This is one of the nicest restaurants I know -- I'm on a restricted diet and they can cook for me and make it taste good."

Montgomery County citizen activists were out in force.

Takoma Park's Dolores Milmoe, who has been a cheerful fly in a number of ointments for a number of years in the county, said, "We finally won one."

Mike Gravitz of Silver Spring, co-chairman of Citizens Referendum on Overdevelopment, said, "I think Silver Spring was Sid Kramer's Vietnam."

Gravitz was referring to the fight over traffic, architecture, historical preservation and community atmosphere that has left Silver Spring a dispirited melange of semi-occupied brand-new office buildings and older stores with boarded-up windows.

Asked what he should do now that protest is on the verge of turning into power, Potter said, "Now we need to put it all together."

He held on to his ginger ale and blinked at his supporters. He wore a necktie that looked as if he might have just bought it for this party. He didn't look any more important than anybody else at the party, which is just how both he and his supporters seem to like it.