The chief political aide to Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes, a Democrat, has asked the state's department heads to compile lists of patronage positions that might be open for White House staffers and other Democratic aides losing their jobs in Washington this month.

Michael F. Canning, who coordinates Hughes' political activities, sent a memo to the department chiefs this week asking for the lists at the request, he said, of the White House personnel office and New Jersey Gov. Brendan Byrne, the incoming chairman of the Democratic Governors Conference. Hughes is hosting a meeting of the governors' conference this week in Annapolis.

The request came despite the freeze that Hughes has ordered on all vacant non-essential state jobs. At a press conference last Thursday, Hughes announced $52 million in cuts in this year's state budget because, he said, declining state revenues were threatening to create a fiscal crisis. Many of the cuts were made by freezing vacant positions in state departments.

"We just thought that it made sense that if we had the vacancies and there were qualified people over there looking, we might be able ot make a match," Canning said. However, he added that "the potential for open jobs is very, very small, I suspect."

The state's personnel director, Theordore E. Thornton said, "It's an ideal opportunity for us. We have jobs we are trying to fill, and we could find some top talent that we need."

Thornton said there are between 300 and 400 vacancies in the state government, ranging from clerk to assistant secretary of a department, that are "unclassified" positions -- or jobs filled by appointment, rather than through the state merit system. Salaries for the open jobs range from $8,000 to $40,000, he said.

Canning's memo notes that department heads should "keep in mind current budget restrictions" when reporting open positions.

"Let us know if there are any positions you are trying to fill for which you'd think there might be good potential candidates on the Hill, the Senate, the House, the committees or in federal agencies," the memo to department heads reads. "We will forward those on to the appropriate personnel offices and have them communicate directly with you on any potential candidates."

An aide in Byrne's Washington office, Dorothy Dugger, said that Byrne was trying to serve as a "clearinghouse" for job openings and outgoings and outgoing Democratic staff, but that the work was informal.