It was incorrectly reported in Sunday's Washington Post that Maryland lieutenant governor candidate J. Joseph Curran Jr. did not appear Saturday at a picnic in Potomac to kick off the reelection campaign of Montgomery County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist. Curran arrived about 45 minutes late and spoke on Gilchrist's behalf.

Democratic Montgomery County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist stood in the middle of a field normally occupied by cows and sipped on a beer he held in one hand while directing traffic with the other. "I wasn't worried about the Republicans until now," he said. "But if they can control the weather . . . . "

The weather, a steady, depressing rain, was the main topic of conversation yesterday afternoon at the Merry-Go-Round Farm in Potomac, because its presence turned what Gilchrist's people had hoped would be a crowd of 400 to 500 at their reelection "kick-off picnic" into a group of about 125 people, who huddled under the trees trying to keep dry.

The most notable no-show was newly anointed lieutenant governor candidate J. Joseph Curran Jr., who had been expected to put in an appearance on behalf of Gov. Harry Hughes. "He has shown just how qualified a leader he is," Gilchrist said, "by being under a roof somewhere."

Gilchrist, dressed casually in a green rain slicker and a blue T-shirt, seemed unperturbed by the rain, even if it kept away Curran and a couple of hundred other people who would have paid $15 each to attend the picnic. He waited in the makeshift parking lot until almost all the cars were parked.

"I'm staying here because I want to make sure the kids get bumper stickers handed out," he said. "I'm very big on bumper stickers and sometimes they don't get them around the way they should."

It is an old political belief, said the county's Democratic Central Chairman Stan Gildenhorn, that bad weather during the campaign means a good result on election day. "If that's true," said U.S. Rep. Michael Barnes (D-Md.), "then Charlie is going to win very big."

Barnes was the biggest name who made it to the rain-soaked soiree, but he left early because his daughters, Dillon, 6, and Garrett, 2, were complaining about being cold and wet.

Gilchrist gave up on Curran and introduced Barnes as soon as the girls starting grumbling. "I want to give Mike a chance to say some nice things about me before he leaves," Gilchrist said.

Barnes, holding an umbrella in one hand and a balloon given his daughter in the other, said the nice things and left. The other Democratic politicians who slogged through the mud to make an appearance--State Sen. Laurence Levitan of Potomac and Sen. S. Frank Shore of Rockville, Dels. Joseph Owens of Rockville, Sheila Ellis Hixson of Silver Spring and Patricia R. Sher of Silver Spring--stayed a little longer, but not much.

"This was a sanity test," said Gilchrist aide Edmond F. Rovner. "Everyone who's here failed."