They were all there -- former politicos, current legislators and those oh-so-hopeful hand-crunching campaigners -- sipping California chablis, nibbling salad seasoned with Ranch House dressing, a Lotus Land specialty, and two-stepping to the strains of "I Left My Heart In San Francisco."

But, however Californian the environment, this was politics Montgomery County style. And the fare catered to Democratic palates.

Saturday evening, more than 600 of the county's Democratic glitteratti donned diamonds and dancng shoes for dining and down-home politicking at their annual spring ball held at the Indian Spring Country Club.

While it was an almost exclusively Montgomery affair, a few outsiders were there. Without calling too much attention to his non-Montgomery County origins, Gov. Harry Hughes joined former acting Gov. Blair Lee III, patriarch of the county's political dynasty, and county party chairman Stan Gildenhorn. Outsiders Attorney General Steven Sachs and Comptroller of the Treasury Louis Goldstein also were permitted a few spins on the parquet floor.

The event, scheduled only 10 days before Tuesday's primary in the 8th Congressional District, and touted by the gala's organizers as an evening of "fun and frivolity," was a campaign worker's delight.

Gathered under the ballroom's channdeliers were residents of one of the nation's top-ranked counties in terms of income and numbers of college graduates.

"Where else," asked Maria Shriver, her Florida tan vividly set off by a chartreuse silk shirt dress, "can you find such a large entourage of politically interested people who actually work campaigns?"

Shriver -- daughter of Eunice Kennedy Shriver and herself a former Montgomery resident -- then swung around to beam the bright-light Kennedy smile at a few more potential backers.

Surrounded by totem poles and Indian profiles, the chiefs of Montgomery County politics -- young men (and not-so-young men) in navy blue pin stripes, and slender women sheathed in basic black (and not-so-slender women draped in peach chiffons and printed caftans) -- traded campaign sloans and presidential delegate votes between bites of potatoes savoy and broccoli polonaise. The melody of "People Who Need People" buoyed recruiters' pleas.

It seemed everyone seated at the 60 round tables was either running for something, running a campaign for someone or receiving a reward for running something. Nearly 15 U.S. Congressional and county school board candidates worked the crowd, while almost all the 30 presidential primary delegate candidates reminded waltzing partners of the pending elections.

R. Spencer-Oliver, squiring party organizer Eileen Marion, beamed particularly brightly as a report that The Baltimore Sun had just endorsed his candidacy for the party's U.S. Senate nomination streaked through the crowd, prompting comparison with The Sun's endorsement of Gov. Hughes' campaign.

"No one thought (Hughes) could win," County Council member Rose Crenca said, "but the Sun's endorsement seemed to sway the election in his favor."

While most were humming the melody of a victory march, a contrating, glomier tune partly undercut the evening's mood. Its theme was former Gov. Marvin Mandel's sentencing.

"I would have preferred the judge to eliminate the prison term," said Del. Joel Chasnoff. Mandel has "suffered enough public scrunity during the past five years."

Joan Lott, one of the 19 elected members of the Democratic Central Committee agreed Mandel had suffered greatly, but she added, "I have faith in our system, and therefore, I support the judge's and the jury's decision."

Most of the party activists preferred not to discuss Mandel's fate. Instead, they gloated over what they considered the unusual harmony in party ranks.

Not everyone imbibing campaign stories between sips of brandy was fooled by the apparent lull in bickering.

"Don't ever believe that the fighting is over," laughed former Governor Lee, "It's only a momentary departure and they'll be back at it soon enough.

"Hell," he said, "that's half the fun of it."