Montgomery County General Assembly delegates, known here as the "white hats" of change, have split into two camps over an attempt to change the rules of their own Democratic Party.

A deceptively bland bill to alter the election procedure for members of the county's Democratic Party Central Committee has become a major local issue facing the delegation.

"This gets down to the issue of an open process, of breaking up the power faction behind the scene that manipulates the party," claimed Del. Judith C. Toth (D-Montgomery), the sponsor of the bill.

Toth's bill would change the traditional method of electing all 19 central committee members on an at-large or county-wide basis. Instead, only six members would be elected at-large while each legislative district in the county would elect two of their own members.

It is an attempt to bring the party closer to the people, Toth claims, and away from the control of what she dubbed the "Bethesda-Chevy Chase" clique of intellectuals and middle-of-the roaders who enjoy telling others what to do and who control party slates and appointments.

For the opposition, such talk is blasphemous. Montgomery County, they say, has one of the most progressive and active parties in the United States. It does not have a machine like Prince George's County.

The issue has divided the delegation along jagged rather than even lines. Generally those in favor of the bill see themselves as outsiders; either because they come from up-county or because they disagree with the ruling faction.

Those opposed to the bill either fail to see any reason for change or say that there is no faction in control of the party. They say that it will be a vehicle for creating a political machine where none exists.

Those opposed to the bill either fail to see any reason for change or say that there is no faction in control of the party. They say that it will be a vehicle for creating a political machine where none exists.

"Either I am very naive or new or these people aren't interested in me but I don't see any ruling power faction," said Del. Nancy K. Kopp (D-Montgomery.)

She is one of the first to proclaim that Toth's bill is the most important local bill to face the delegation and says she is "strongly opposed" to it because she is afraid it will lead to "provincialism."

Delegation chairman Donald B. Robertson opposed it just as strongly because of the potential for provincialism as well as machine politics "like Baltimore City."

"This bill would introduce a kind of politics we've been fortunate to avoid in Montgomery County," explained Robertson. "The kind that establishes a group of overly powerful people, a limited number of people who control their small wards."

Such divergent views of the bill, that it will either break up or create a political organization, mirrors the divisions within the delegation.

"Nancy (Kopp) wouldn't be where she is today without the organization," claimed Toth.

She and Del. Jerry H. Hyatt (D-Montgomery) are both from up-county and they both ran successfully against the party slate in 1974 to win their seats in the General Assembly. They describe themselves as populists and people on the "outside" of the power center.

"I realized that I wasn't going to get the nomination from the slate-making committee so I figured why even bother," said Hyatt. "In the slate-making process some one group is always on the inside telling other people why they are out. I'm in favor of the people on the outside who want to elect their own representatives."

Del. Charles A. Doctor (D-Montgomery) agrees with Hyatt but says that placing a slate of 19 names on a long ballot for central committee positions does not encourage fair competition.

"One elite group mainpulates into a position of power and it's difficult to crack the ice," said Doctor. "The parochialism argument doesn't make sense. If anything, this will make the committee more meaningful."

Robertson defends the slatemaking process, where party members choose their candidates, because he feels "active party members are better able to judge the qualifications for people to serve on the central committee than the voters."

It is this attitude that supporters of Toth's bill most criticize. "People in Poolesville want a representative who lives in Poolesville, not in Bethesda," said Del. Hyatt. "Basically, people now feel they they don't get reaction. Party control has changed two or three times that I remember but without local input. That's what people want, local input."