It was shortly after 7 a.m. and Luiz Simmons was sipping grapefruit juice and listening to a wealthy, well-connected Republican tell him he'd like to support him in his race for Montgomery County executive, but couldn't be much help.

"Luiz," the Republican said, "you're a man of integrity. I like you. All my money is tied up right now. But you don't need big contributions. I'll write you a check for $25 and you can build your campaign on those kinds of contributions. It can be done."

But for Simmons, who has been planning his challenge to incumbent Democrat Charles W. Gilchrist for close to a year, the bleary-eyed rendezvous on the morning of May 3 was a rotten way to start one of the most important weeks of his political career.

"It's nice to be told you have integrity," Simmons said. "But, unfortunately, in 1982 you can't build a campaign on integrity and $25 checks. You need more than that."

Knowing he needs more, Simmons set out two weeks ago to get the financial commitments he must have before he formally announces his challenge to Gilchrist.

At 33, Simmons is a one-term member of the House of Delegates. Elected as a moderate Republican, he went to Annapolis with an aggressive, reformist approach that earned him respect in some corners, scorn in others.

One of his more controversial stands came on the issue of tax breaks for country clubs in the county. Simmons opposed them. That, combined with the general perception of him as a consumer advocate, has closed many of the traditional doors a Republican knocks on in search of financial backing.

"I told Luiz once that I liked him a lot and thought highly of him," said Harry Tyson Carter, a longtime Republican fund-raiser in the county. "But if I invited 20 of my friends to dinner to meet a political candidate and told them it was Luiz, they would tell me they had other engagements."

Simmons knew that starting out. He also knew that a poll he had commissioned showed that Gilchrist was vulnerable. So he began looking for help in less traditional areas.

That first Monday morning meeting was discouraging. The man was on Simmons' side on the country club issue but all he contributed was $25. Simmons thanked him for his time, shook hands and left. Getting in his car, he suddenly remembered something. "I forgot to get the $25."

The week was not starting well.

The next morning, breakfast was a little later: 8 a.m. Sitting in a Hot Shoppes restaurant off East-West Highway, Simmons talked to two friends he had met through his law practice. Neither has ever been involved in a political campaign. Neither wants any part of politics.

One of them looked at Simmons and said, "Lou, I have two religions, Judaism and staying out of politics. But you're my friend, so I'm going to help you."

Before breakfast was over, the two men had committed themselves to raising $10,000. Simmons had raised $8,000 before that morning and it was spent. This was a major first step.

From breakfast, Simmons drove downtown to the Old Executive Office Building to meet with Michael Horowitz, the senior counsel to the Office of Management and Budget, who had interviewed Simmons for a job with a law firm in 1974.

Simmons' request was simple: Use your influence to get a "name" Republican speaker from Capitol Hill for a Simmons fund-raiser. They discussed Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker. Very unlikely, Horowitz said. What about Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) or Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.)? Possible. Horowitz said he would check.

Simmons next drove to Prince George's General Hospital to speak to a doctor there who had contributed to his newsletter fund. The doctor was eager to help. He promised to raise $10,000 and to become a member of the finance committee.

Suddenly, in several hours, the outlook had changed. Simmons had $30,000 in commitments from three men he knew and trusted. "Driving away from the hospital I knew for certain I was getting in the race," he said. "The doubts I had had on Monday were erased."

Excited, he headed for a meeting with Ruth Ann Aron, a lawyer who had already promised to become a member of his finance committee.

Aron gave Simmons tea and sympathy. "I told him not to get frustrated about talking to people 20 hours a day, trying to explain what he was about. He was tired, but I said, you're going to be a winner. We'll relax in November."

From Aron's Simmons drove to Marwood, the Potomac estate of Louise Gore, a party stalwart, a fixture at parties and the 1974 GOP nominee for governor.

"If anyone knows about the problems of running as a Republican in this state, it's Louise Gore," Simmons said.

They sat in the kitchen of the mansion and munched on fried chicken. They talked for 90 minutes about the difficulties of the race. Simmons told Gore why he wanted to run, why he was convinced he could win. Gore wished him luck, urged him to call on her for help and advice. Stuffed, Simmons left to meet State Sen. Howard A. Denis, his last date in a long day.

Simmons and Denis sat in a restaurant on Rockville Pike, each with a bowl of vegetable soup. Each had worked hard to get to the state legislature. They had been close in Annapolis because they were from the same county and from the minority party, and because they liked each other. Now, Denis was concerned that Simmons might be making a mistake.

"Think of how hard you worked to get where you are," Denis said. "Are you SURE you want to give it up for what has to be a very tough race?"

Simmons was sure. "I felt like a soldier being sent off to war," he said.

It had been a 16-hour day. Simmons was exhausted, emotional and elated. Also, as Denis put it later, "on fire."

Wednesday was another early morning, another early breakfast with Levey. This time, Simmons had his pollster relate the results to 10 businessmen, Democrats and Republicans. Simmons made a brief speech, as did Levey.

One of those present who promised help was Donald Wallach, head of the Maryland Association of Professional Recruitment Consultants, a group that finds executives for corporations. Wallach, a Democrat, had met Simmons several years earlier and liked him. When his association was having difficulty getting deregulated by the state, he had contacted Simmons, who helped him get the legislation passed.

"I liked Louie the first time I met him," Wallach said. "He's got charisma, he's an excellent speaker and he's bright. He isn't in anybody's hip pocket either, which is why he's having trouble raising funds. People like their politicians in their hip pocket."

Harry Carter also was at the meeting. On the phone earlier in the week, Simmons had asked Carter if he could commit himself to raising $10,000. "I couldn't do it, couldn't make that guarantee because raising money for a county executive's race is a lot different than a congressional race," Carter said. "I told him I would help, but couldn't promise."

Carter, who has raised funds in the past for Sen. Charles McC. Mathias and for former Reps. Gilbert Gude and Newton I. Steers (all R-Md.), listened carefully to the presentation. Later he called Simmons, and left a message: "You hit just the right note. I'm with you."

Four other men who attended the breakfast agreed to raise $5,000 each.

Simmons went from the breakfast to meetings with several businessmen. A friend of Wallach's agreed to help; another wants to see how the race evolves before making a commitment.

That night Simmons attended a fund-raiser in Baltimore for state Comptroller Louis Goldstein, a Democrat. Simmons ran into House Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin. Even though from different parties, the two had enjoyed a good relationship.

Cardin asked Simmons if he was going to run for executive. Simmons said he was. "You know," Cardin said, "It would not make me unhappy if you were in the House of Delegates again."

It was meant as a compliment. Simmons was touched. "I realized driving home that this was the last time I would be part of the Annapolis fraternity for a long time."

The next morning, Simmons called Steers to ask his advice on who to contact. Steers said he would make some calls and get back to him. Then came a surprise phone call from a man who had read that Simmons was planning to run, couldn't make a contribution but had some office space available at the Gaithersburg Air Park. Simmons made arrangements to meet the man and look at the office space.

That evening he and his wife Claire talked about what the race would mean. "I told her I was a little depressed because I was learning you can't get elected and take up every fight, you can't just campaign on integrity. She said the only reason she allowed me to stay in politics was because I did take up the fights."

The next day Simmons' parents visited, and he and his father talked about the poll results and how the week had gone. "Don't hold back," Bernard Simmons said. "Go for it."

The week ended with a dinner given by the Portugese Women's Cultural Club of Washington, at which Simmons, whose mother is Brazilian, presented a Maryland flag to John Philip Sousa, grandson of the composer.

He also ran into Phil Feliciano, a friend he had met two years earlier through the club. Feliciano, a registered Democrat, was already on the finance committee so Simmons didn't have to make a pitch to him.

Feliciano said he could tell his friend was tired but when he asked about the campaign, Simmons' brown eyes flashed with intensity. "I'd never seen him like that," Feliciano said. "He thinks the time for him is now. He's ready."

The next day, Simmons sat down with Steve Silverman, his legislative aide, campaign manager and alter ego, to go over the week's work. They had $75,000 in commitments and promises from people to help them open more doors.

They picked May 18 for the announcement of his candidacy. On that day, tomorrow, the race will begin.