In defeat, there were no signs of the controversial and combative politician that has become Lawrence J. Hogan's legend.

Hogan, the 54-year-old Prince George's County executive, ended his uphill battle to become U.S. senator from Maryland in a relaxed and upbeat mood, saying that during the campaign he was not consumed with a desire to be elected and that he will probably not seek office again.

"I wasn't dying for it, I was never dying for it," he said of the Senate seat. "You can't have a burning passion as a Republican candidate in Maryland. Every time you run, it's like putting your head on the chopping block. I doubt I'll run for office again. I went for the brass ring this time and didn't get it."

The man so frequently criticized as a "demagogue" and an "opportunist" offered uncharacteristically gracious words for his opponent, Democratic Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, and said he felt an overwhelming sense of relief that his year-long campaign was over.

"I'm a realist," he said when he returned the morning after the election to his Landover home, where a fading green statuette of a Republican elephant sat silently on the lawn with autumn leaves swirling in the breeze around it.

"I think the die was cast. Nothing we could have done would have changed it. It was just not a Republican year. I'm relieved, in a way. Now I can start putting my life back together."

In Hogan, there were no traces of anger or bitterness, even though his campaign was a victim, in part, of fierce personal rivalries within his own party that drained enthusiasm for his candidacy and dried up potential contributions.

There were no apologies, no attempts to justify why Sarbanes trounced him by a 63-to-37 percent margin, beating him solidly even in his own county. And there was no blame placed on anyone but himself, not even a suggestion that the National Conservative Political Action Committee's $650,000 media effort against Sarbanes backfired and became an albatross on his own campaign.

Hogan's summation was brief and to the point: Sarbanes had more money, the state is overwhelmingly Democratic, and 1982 was not Maryland's season for Republicans. And, he conceded, his campaign made a few tactical mistakes, such as spending too much money for television ads in the Washington suburbs, where he was already widely known.

"My whole philosophy is don't look back, just look forward," he said. "It doesn't do you any good to get ticked off. You just have to put it behind you. I've been in politics a long time. There is not a whole lot of loyalty in it. Everybody is out for number one. You just learn to live with it. I feel no rancor toward anyone."

The news of defeat came to Hogan early on election night, as he watched television reports with his wife, Ilona, and campaign staff members in a suite at the Belvedere Hotel in Baltimore. He had had a good campaign day and had thought to himself that he might score an upset. But the minute the polls closed the television networks called Sarbanes a winner, and Hogan accepted that it was all over.

And so now Hogan, who complained frequently while in public office that he was not making enough money, will return to private life -- he hopes as a business executive -- exiting from politics after serving three terms in Congress and one controversial term as executive in a Democratic stronghold, a tenure that made him believe he could win state-wide despite Maryland's 3-to-1 Democratic registration margin.

He will leave in his past a tumultous relationship with the Prince George's County Council, a reputation for being a boisterous spokesman for conservative causes, and an image in the press as a politician who could not resist a bloody fight or the chance to seize the political limelight. This side of politics, he says, he will not miss.

His policies and personal style made him a lightning rod for budget fights in the county and a target of infighting in the Maryland GOP. Although he says he enjoyed the "challenge of management" as county executive, he tired of the constant criticisms that focused on his office. The Senate race was both an escape from what seemed at times a thankless job, as well as the next logical step for an ambitious politician.

But the day after Hogan's defeat, as he and his wife readied their children for school, discussed a fence that needed mending and which groceries to buy, he seemed perfectly content to leave behind "a year-and-a-half of life that focused on one objective getting elected ."

A political career that began in earnest with Hogan's first, and only unsuccessful, race for the House of Representatives 1966 will now take a new twist.

"I'm concerned about what I'm going to do next," he said, as he thumbed through a collection of sentimental poems he wrote a decade ago, pointing to one called "Don't Look Back" that he says is particularly poignant today.

"I'm at a crossroads in my career. I'm 54 years old and I've got to decide what to do next," he said. "I haven't ruled out anything yet. But right now I want to get reacquainted with my kids. We're going to the beach for three days. We've got two rooms adjacent to a pool, with a kitchen, a hot tub, a jacuzzi, and a sauna. We're really going to have fun."

Hogan says he is no longer the ambitious and driven man of his younger days, a father who years ago missed his daughter's eighth grade graduation ceremony because he was making a speech elsewhere. (Last week, Hogan took time off from the campaign to take one of his sons to an amusement park on his sixth birthday).

Hogan says it will be easy to adjust to life outside of politics ("It's the difference between listening to music on the radio instead of always listening to the news, or being able to read the National Geographic instead of the Metro section"), just as it was when he lost in the GOP gubernatorial primary in 1974.

The former FBI agent, public relations executive, lawyer and lecturer at the University of Maryland says he would like to teach history or write a novel, but that he would not make enough money in either vocation. He says he does not want to be a full-time lobbyist because "that's not my thing." (He would be willing to serve as a Washington representative of or general counsel to a company, however).

After Dec. 7, when he leaves the county executive's job, Hogan's political activities will be confined largely to his role as a national Republican committeeman from Maryland, although he says he will keep track of county affairs. Disappointed that he lost to Sarbanes in Prince George's, where he says "we really improved county government," Hogan seems mildly amused thinking about his Democratic replacement, Parris Glendening, trying to govern while constrained by a voter-mandated property tax freeze.