The 1978 gubernatorial race in Maryland has pitted two veteran politicians - both products of the state's rural areas - in a campaign that has focused on the issues of taxes and government spending.

Democrat Harry R. Hughes, 51, a former state transportation secretary who won the closely contested Sept. 12 primary election, is battling former U.S. senator J. Glenn Beall, 51, a Republican, for the right to take over the $65,000-a-year-job as Maryland's chief executive officer.

Hughes is running on a ticket with former Prince George's County Council member Samuel W. Bogley, while Beall is teamed up with Annapolis physician Aris T. Allen, a former state legislator who is chariman of the state Republican Party.

Hughes and Beall have both proposed detailed plans for reducing taxes, cutting government spending and streamlining state bureacracy.

Beall's proposal for tax reduction includes elimination of the 20-cent state property tax, worth as estimated $72 million to the taxpayers, increasing by $50 the $800 personal exemption for state income taxpayers, for a first-year taxpayers' savings of $126 million, and containing to increase the exemption every year, by increments tied to the cost-of-living index, until it reaches $1,000.

In addition, Beall proposes limiting future yearly increases in the $4.4 billion state budget to the cost-of-living increases for those same years. Beall has pledged to veto any legislation introduced to change or increase graduation of state income taxes.

Beall has said he will offset the tax reduction by decreasing state expenditures in the following ways: eliminating most vacant positions and instituting a hiring freeze; using part of the existing, estimated $79 million surplus in the budget and deriving revenue from growth of such existing revenue sources as the sales tax and the state lottery.

Hughes' plan for tax relief for Maryland citizen includes expanding the existing property tax credit program by giving homeowners under 60 the same benefits now available to homeowners over 60, for a tax reduction estimated at $6 million.He also would extend the "circuit breaker" tax credit program to renters, passing back an estimated $9 million to taxpayers and cutting state property tax from 20 cents to 11 cents, for an estimated savings of more than $30 million.

Hughes has proposed increasing the standard deduction available to income taxpayers who do not itemize their returns from $500 to $1,500 for an individual and from $1,000 to $3,000 for a married couple filing jointly.

On the question of government spending, Hughes estimates that about $1 billion of the $4.4 billion state budgets is controllable, while the rest is spending locked in by law. Hughes said he would try to limit increases in the controllable parts of the budget to 5 percent.

In addition, Hughes said he would recommend legislation limiting increases in local government spending to 5 percnet annually and would limit to $150 million or less bond authorizations for the the next fiscal years.

In the wake of the release this year of two gloomy reports on the state's economic condition, both men have stressed economic development as a key issue.

Hughes proposed 17 changes to reverse economic trends, saying he would become "Maryland's top salesman" in searching out and encouraging new industries to locate in the state and would put together new energy programs to make use of coal in western Maryland and oil and natural gas off the coast in the Baltimore canyon.

Hughes also has said he would establish a new state department of commerce and would bring more federal jobs to the state.

Beall said he would push economic development by hiring a full-time staff member to entice new industry to the state, would increase the amount of money in a state program that ensures industrial mortgages and would eliminate taxes, such as those on pollution-control devices, that he considers "disincentives to growth."

Two other issues have the men in agreement. Each says the new governor must give Maryland political life a new image in the wake of scandals, such as the political corruption conviction of suspended governor Marvin Mandel. And each says that more state funds should be given to localities to defray education costs.

During the campaign, each of the candidates has found himself on the opposite side of an issue from his running mate. Allen opposes the death penalty while Beall favors it, and Bogley opposes state funding of abortions while Hughes backs the present restriction under which Medicaid abortion funding is allowed.

The disagreements prompted Hughes and Beall to issue statements as to the specialized roles their lieutenant governors would have if elected.

Beall would put Allen in charge of finding ways to solve Maryland's unemployment problems, while Hughes said Bogley would be asked to coordinate state and local policies and programs for Maryland's economic development.

The race for attorney general pits Republican Warren K. Rich, 39, an attorney who until recently served as an assistant attorney general, against Stephen H. Sachs, 44, who served as U.S. attorney for Maryland from 1967 to 1970 and has been in private practice since then.

The two men are vying for a $50,000-a-year post that carries the responsibilities of running an office of 160 lawyers and administering a $6 million budget. Under the state constitution, the attorney general serves as legal counsel to the governor, the legislature and all state departments, boards and commissions, except the Public Service Commission. The attorney general also has the duty, under the Maryland constitution, to institute criminal prosecutions as approved by the governor.

The two candidates take a somewhat different tack in defining the primary role of the attorney general. Rich has said that "most of the attorney general's work involves representing the State of Maryland in civic matters . . . I will emphasize this aspect of the office.

"The success or failure of the next attorney general will be judged on his ability to represent the state; to deal effectiviely with the federal government as an adversary and a partner; to work in a cooperative manner with local government."

Sachs, on the other hand, has said, "I believe that the attorney general should be primarily the public's lawyer.

"I believe that law enforcement is a crucial part of the attorney general's job. The attorney general's failure to exercise its responsibility has wrongly ignored the corruption we have suffered here in Maryland and has resulted in massive federal instrusions into the affairs of the state."

On the issues of how to deal with environmental questions, Sachs said he would push for "greater consolidation and coordination . . . among the various agencies dealing with these problems." Also, he would establish an environmental unit within the attorney general's office "to ensure that lawyers for the state have the comprehensive knowledge and expertise to deal effectively with complex problems of the environment and worker health."

Rich, who worked with environmental issues while serving as assistant attorney general, said he would propose to the governor and legislature a plan to eliminate the overlapping authority of the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which both have some responsibility for planning and approving such things as new sewers and sewage treatment facilities.

On consumer protection questions, Rich has said that he believes that the attorney general should have an expanded role acting "as an advocate for the people before the Public Service Commission."

While Rich believes that some handling of complaints and preliminary investigations now done by the attorney general's office should be handled by the office of the commissioner of consumer credit, he also said that the consumer protection divison of the attorney general's office should be expanded.

Sachs has said that duplication and overlapping in the investigation of consumer complaints by different agencies should be eliminated. He also noted that he would have the consumer protection division work closely with the Department of Licensing and Regulation to suspend or revoke licenses of merchants who "repeatedly refuse to stop engaging in deceptive trade practices."

In the race for state comptroller, the incumbent Louis L. Goldstein, 65, who has held the office for 20 years, is being challenged by Republican Donald Devine, 41, a University of Maryland professor.

The comptroller, who receives an annual salary of $50,000 is responsible generally for supervising the fiscal affairs of the state, "preparing plans for improvement and management of revenue, for the support of the public credit," according to the state constitution.

The comptroller also administers and collects specific taxes, controls and regulates the manufacture, sale, transportation and distribution of alcoholic beverages and prescribes the form of all state licenses.

Devine, who has said he will act as the "fiscal watchdog" for Maryland if elected, has called for reducing taxes and deregulating the state's liquor and tobacco businesses.

Goldstein has pledged to work to maintain Maryland's AAA bond rating and to protect consumers of alcohol and petroleum products. He also has said he will continue his "open door policy" and will serve as the people's representative on the Board of Public Works.