The Preakness Country Club nestles amid the tree-shaded split-levels of suburban New Jersey, and there last Thursday evening a not a typical rite of autumn was under way.
Some 30 people - middle-aged doctors, dentists, businessmen and their wives from the local Jewish community - were gathered in the dining room listening to a speech on the Middle East from a political candidate hungry for their financial support.
Addressing them over their breast of chicken and wild rice, however, was no home - grown son of Passaic County but a Democrat named Andrew P. Miller who is running for the U.S. Senate from Virginia.
Miller was embarked on an out-of-state fund-raiser - a practice questioned by his opponent and heretofore almost unheard of in the traditionally self-contained politics of Virginia.
Less than a decade ago a candidate for governor in Virginia labeled his opponent an "agent of foreign forces" for accepting out-of-state money for his campaign, and while non-Virginia contributions have been increasingly common since, out-of-state campaigning had not.
Last year, running for governor, Miller raised $1.4 million, much of it in large corporate checks and almost all of it from within the state. This year, restricted by a federal law that limits individual donation to $1,000, his campaign has been dogged with money problems from its inception.
So far, in an effort to bolster his sagging treasury, he has scheduled three out-of-state fund raisers - one Sept. 11 in Miami, one Friday in New York and the one here.
"A senator represents his state, but he also votes on issues of concern to people all over the nation," Miller explained. "People elsewhere are interested in how I stand on issues and I welcome their interest and support."
Miller and his staff say the New Jersey and Miami fund-raisers were largely social affairs, arranged by Linda Hennesey, one of Miller's key Northern Virginia aides, and her parents.
Miller was not the only political figure in the room here. Introducing him was Mark Siegel, the Carter administration's former liaison man with the Jewish community, who resigned over the President's decision to sell arms to Saudi Arabia.
Siegel underscored his differences with the White House, but described Camp David as "a monmumental breakthrough" and "the most extraordinary achievement in foreign policy by a president in my memory." He is, he said, in a state of "cautious euphoria" about the whole affair.
He introduced Miller as a man of "sympathy and sensitivity and understanding . . . a man of excellence, not of promise but of performance . . . magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton, number one in his class at the University of Virginia law school . . . a man who is fiscally conservative and responable yet has a heart."
"I have not been doing a lot of speaking for candidates this year," Siegel said. "I've only been speaking for two. And one of them is Andy Miller of Virginia." The other is Charles R. (Pug) Ravenel, the Democratic senatorial candidate from South Carolina.
"He Miller is not just my friend," Siegel said. "He has proven throughout his public career he is our friend."
Miller began on a low key, reminding his audience that he went to college "right near there at Princeton" where he also met his wife.
"Her father was dean of the faculty . . . she was the only girl on the campus at that time and I sort of liked the odds . . . The way she tells it, she looked out over the student body and said 'Daddy, I want that one.'"
He talked about the nation's energy policy and praised Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash). "I had the pleasure of having lunch with Scoop just yesterday . . ." and worried aloud over the Soviets' "perception of weakness" in America. Then he turned to the main event.
"In June of this year I went to the Middle East, I was in Egypt, I was in Israel, and that time I had an opportunity to talk at some length with Mr. Sadat and Mr. Begin. And it was a fascinating experience because those two men at that time were very pessimistic as to what was going to happen . . .
"What Mr. Sadat wanted, very obviously, was an imposed solution, but you and I know that in that situation an imposed situation would never work . . ."
Miller went on, dropping personal touches here and there, talking of the Middle East leaders as human beings, each trying to and hoping for peace. He mades no Zionist pledges, but the audience seemed impressed and reassured.
"There are all problems that concern us all, and that we all have to work on. I appreciate you all coming out tonight to meet with me, and I appreciate the invitation to be here . . ."
He says "things are going well in the campaign," and does not mention his opponent, Republican John W. Warner.
Linda Hennessey said a thank-you letter will go out with a contribution envelope enclosed to the dinner guests. The Miami reception netted "about $7,000 from about 40 people," she said. It will be some time before the value of the Wayne dinner is known.
It's all very soft sell, she says, "because Andy is not at all comfortable asking for money." He never asked for donations during his talk, and, in fact, never mentioned money.
But as Miller, who has had about 4 1/2 hours of sleep in the past 24, sipped a gin-and-tonic after the speech and spoke with a reporter he was astonished to see turn up, people were writing checks.
"Nice meeting you, senator," one said. "We appreciate the fact that we'll have a friend of Israel in the Senate."