The refrain was familiar. Here was Richmond (Max) Keeney, the Republican candidate for Montgomery County executive, looking squarely at his Democratic opponent, CharlesW. Gilchrist's, during a recent television debate and accusing him of "turning his back" on county home owners for "voting no to holding down assessments."

As he heard the latest of Keeney's frequent attacks on his record as a state senator. Gilchrist bristled, then insisted again that he had never voted that way.

But, interrupted Keeney, waving a sheaf of papers, "It's right here, Charlie, right in the record."

Only 21/2 weeks away from the election, the Montgomery County executive race has produced few issues that set the candidates apart. So, increasingly, Keeney is trying to turn voter resentment against taxes to his advantage.

Almost daily during the two past weeks, Keeney has accused Gilchrist of having an "obvious proclivity for increasing taxes" by hammering away at Gilchrist's record during four years in the state Senate.

Gilchrist denies the charge, defending his few votes on tax increases as the most equitable means of filling dwindling state coffers and rescuing threatened service without significantly penalizing Montgomery students.

For all Keeney's efforts to point the difference between Gilchrist background and his own, how there are a number of similarity the two men's backgrounds.

Both Keeney, a former Council member, and a current ning board commissioner, and Gilchrist a state senator and tax collegues as men who "moderating" influencies in their work.

On the planning board, for example, Keeney often took a probusiness position, unlike many of his colleagues pediments that government sometimes "He has been concerned with the implaces in the way of development," said John Hoover, the planning board's spokesman.

Keeney explains it as "inserting an attitude of moderation that tries to be more caring of each side of every issue.

In the state Senate, Gilhurst has more than once "been a lone, mediating voice in some very caustic issues," said state Sen. Thomas P. O'Reilly of Prince George's . Even to opponents, it was clear that Gilchrist listened to all-sides before making up his mind. "I've tried to strike a balance (between differing positions)," Gilchrist said.

In addition, both have been hard workers deliberative almost to the point of plodding, informed and forceful legislative disussions, but not colorful.

On the central issue of taxes, Keeney has said steadfastly that he opposes any new levies. He has designed his own property tax-cutting formula, which he contends is less abrupt than though just as effective as, the tax-cutting charter amendment known as TRIM (Tax Relief in Montgomery).

Yet Keeney concedes that "there probably is an inconsistency" between that a position and his actions as County Council member in the 1960s. In 1967, 1968 and 1969, he sided with the County Council Republican majority voting to impose a 20 percent and later a 50 percent county "piggyback" tax on the state income tax. Part of the new revenues were used to decrease the property tax rate.

In 1969, Keeney urged that the elected school board be given power to levy school taxes imposed by the County Council.

Keeney has talked extensively about four of Gilchrist's votes to raise taxes, but he has not mentioned the equally signigicant tax-cutting propositions his oponent has supported.

In 1977, Gilchrist voted from the controversial 1-cent boost in the state sales tax. The alternative, said Gilchrist, "would have been a lot of substantial cuts in state programs, such as community colleges, contributions to teachers social security and aid to libraries.

He also voted to increase the titling tax on recreational boats and excise tax on automobiles.

In 1977 Gilchrist voted against a measure putting a 15 percent cap on property tax assessment increases from one year to the next, as Keeney pointed out in the TV debate. It passed 38 to 3.

"The tax did not seem equitable because it would apply to relatively few taxpayers and would have been a sharp revenue loss to the county," said Gilchrist.

But this year when the bill came up for extension, Gilchrist voted for it. "It was part of an overall tax package which seemed to take into account all taxpayers and the revenue loss wasn't as sharp as the county had predicted," he said.

This year he also voted for the 5 percent rollback in assessments, the cut in state property taxes and the extension of the circuit-breaker tax credit program for lower-income home owners.

While Keeney has frequently brought up Gilchrist's record at debates, Gilchrist has avoided talking about his opponents.

As County Council member from 1967 to 1970, Keeney irked some of his more conservative Republican colleagues when he occasionally swung to vote with the Democrats. In his 1966 campaign, he criticized his Republican predecessors for their "rash zoning activity" and "flagrant violations of the public trust" in their rush to develop the county.

Once in office, he called for a review of the pending "wedges and corridors" general development plan to control growth. His council passed it.

Keeney was one of two council dissenters who in 1968 voted against the adopted Metro subway routes in the county. He agreed with colleague Idamae Garrot that one line, instead of two, was cheaper and more consonant with the goals for locating development.

After a fiery session leading to the enactment of the first open-housing law in the area's suburbs, Keeney wound up voting against the measure because of its "quota" rule. When the law was thrownout in court because of the quota provision, he helped redraft the law that was finally approved.

Keeney demonstrated his sympathy with business when he introduced a successful measure in 1969 to allow developers to increase population densities above allowed maximums if they built a certain number of low-priced homes in a project.

In the state Senate, beginining with his freshmen year in 1975, Gilchrist showed himself to be a legislative compromiser. In addition, "he could grasp very technical matters, especially fiscal issues better than most," said state Sen. John J. Bishop Jr., the Senate Republican leader.

This year he was the floor leader for the thorny pension reform legislation after serving on the pension study commission. The bill was killed after an intensive lobbying effort by teachers and labor. Yet, Gilchrist later won labor's endorsement in the primary."Over his four years he showed he was a friend of labor," said a Montgomery labor activist.

He also sponsored a separate, successful bill imposing penalties on trustees of the state's $1.5 billion pension system if they did not exercise strict care in investing funds.

Gilchrist earned a "hero" rating from Common Cause for his support of legislative reform and ethics bills. BUt he fared less well with business, gaining only a 57 percent rating from the Bethesda Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce this year.