Former Secretary of Defense Clark M. Clifford, a trusted adviser to three presidents, has decided to take a fling at local politics by agreeing to help sponsor a fund-raiser for Harry R. Hughes, a dark horse Democratic candidate for governor in Maryland.

"I have found him to be honest and I have found him to be able." Clifford said of Hughes, the former Maryland transportation secretary, who resigned last year after charging that a contractor had tampered with the award of a Baltimore subway contract.

Clifford, a lawyer who is a Montgomery County resident and personal friend of Hughes, said he has contributed $1,000 to the Hughes campaign chest. His busy schedule will probably prevent him from raising money for the gubernatorial candidate, he said.

Hughes, who is considered to be lagging far behind other gubernatorial candidates in next fall's Democratic primary, said Clifford will serve as honorary cochairman of the fund-raising, which is tentatively scheduled for late spring in Baltimore.

Clifford well-known name will appear on the $100 tickets for the fund-raiser, said Hughes. "Whenever you have good people associated with your campaign," he said, "it does something for you. And (Clifford) is good people."

"This isn't the same thing as getting a Jim Palmer (star Baltimore Oriole pitcher) to support you," Hughes said, "even if he (Clifford) is a celebrity. It's strictly a personal thing, I asked him because he's a friend."

Hughes said he first met Clifford several years ago at a Washington luncheon. Since then, the two men have seen each other at social functions and developed a friendship, according to the gubernatorial candidate.

Clifford served as an adviser to President Truman, Kennedy and Johnson. He said he has never before been involved in politics at the local level. "I've never known anybody (candidate) before," he said. "But I know this man."