Del. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Baltimore) was running down the names of some colleagues who won't be returning to Annapolis next session. "There's Walter Dean, a leading black legislature, (Charles J.) Sullivan, vice chairman of the Constitutional and Administrative Law Committee, William Helms, majority whip, - and Elmo Walters, a real old time member. He was practically an institution."

As the last returns came in and the winners and losers became clear, the victorious incumbents began to mourn the political passing of the 24 who didn't make it. But not for long. Their attention quickly turned to the general election and to speculation as to who will be the new man in the governor's chair and who will fill the key leadership positions now open in both the House and the Senate.

Leadership positions open include Senate president, speaker of the House and House majority leader. The surprise defeat of Helms (D-Anne Arundel) as House whip also leaves that slot open.

But most of the recognized leaders in both the Senate and the House managed to survive the primary handily and appear capable of maintaining their base of power.

Cardin and Del. Joseph Owens (D-Montgomery) continue to be the most likely contenders for the next House speaker.

The Democratic nomination of former Transportation Secretary Harry Hughes over Acting Gov. Blair Lee III for governor seemed to throw some doubt on the chances of Sen. Harry McGuirk (D-Baltimore) for the Senate presidency. The powerful Baltimore senator allied himself with Lee in the primary and once compared Hughes' campaign to "a ball lost in tall grass."

"In view of Hughes' win . . . I would say Harry McGuirk's chances of becoming Senate president are relatively minor," said Sen. John J. Bishop Jr. (R-Baltimore County).

Bishop predicted that Sen. J. Joseph Curran (D-Baltimore) and Sen. James Clark Jr. (D-Howard) "would be jettisoned into positions they would not normally have had."

But McGuirk said, "I don't feel threatened . . . I think (Hughes) will leave it up to each individual house to assess its own leadership."

A number of the legialators predicted that the Assembly will become more independent of the governor's control in the future, no matter which man - Harry Hughes or Republican nominee J. Glenn Beall - is elected.

"Most people preferred the way (House Speaker) John Hanson Briscoe (D-St. Mary's) and Senate President Steny Hoyer (D-Prince Georges) ran the General Assembly . . . There was greater movement toward the independence of the General Assembly," Cardin said.

Although 24 - three senators and 21 delegates - lost their seats, many of the legislators interviewed yesterday said they thought the defeats were due mainly to the candidates themselves rather than any general wave of dissatisfaction with incumbents.

"I don't qualify as a new face and I got more votes than the rest of the people running in my district . . . I just think the voters were picking and choosing," Del. Gerard Devlin (D. Prince Georges) said.

In Prince George's County, Devlin blamed the defeat of some candidates on the lack of teamwork among some candidates who were running on the same slate. He also said that this year, Democratic Party leader Peter O'Malley, pre-occupied with his friend Hoyer's campaign, failed to put together a strong organization ticket.

One of the most surprising defeats was that of Del. John S. Arnick (D-Baltimore County), the House majority leader who was competing for retiring Sen. Roy N. Staten's seat.

Some of his colleagues felt Arnick was hurt by his association with Staten, who testified as a defense witness at Marvin Mandel's corruption trial.

There is usually a 40 percent turnover in the legislature each year, Devlin said.

What was different his year, Cardin said, was that "they got turned over in the voting booth rather than because they were seeking other seats."

But several incumbents did leave the legislature to seek other posts or to retire.

Del. Charles Gilchrist (D-Montgomery) and Sen. Donald P. HUtchinson (D-Baltimore County) won the Democratic nominations for county executive in their respective counties. A number of delegates, such as Del. Charles A. Docter (D-Montgomery) and Del. Leo Green (D-Prince George's), failed when they tried to move up from the House to beat incumbents in the Senate.