In envisioning what Republican Wyatt B. Durrette would be like as governor of Virginia, the first thing that occurs to House Minority Leader Vincent F. Callahan Jr. is: "I don't think he'd rock any boats."

In trying to imagine an administration led by Democrat Gerald L. Baliles, Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist, predicts: "It wouldn't be very exciting. I doubt there would be dramatic initiatives or precedent-shattering moves. I think there would be steady progress . . . . "

The Virginia tradition lives on in the front-runners in the races for the Democratic and Republican nominations for governor. They are cut from the same mold of cautious, conservative leaders who seem to dominate the state's politics. In fact, listening to Durrette and Baliles supporters talk, it sometimes seems like they are describing the same person.

Both candidates won reputations as able legislators in the House of Delegates, though Durrette can cite a major accomplishment in his rewrite of the juvenile laws, and Baliles can't.

Both are given credit for being "issue-oriented" politicians and decent people.

The candidates are said to respect each other; aides to both will say privately that either would probably be a competent governor.

Baliles has had a more successful political career since leaving the legislature: He beat Durrette for the office of state attorney general in 1981, and his performance in that office appears to be an asset to him. He is generally credited with conducting the state's legal business in a professional and efficient manner.

On the other hand, that election was not really a test of their respective popularity with voters. Durrette, who has spent the past four years campaigning for Republican candidates and trying to build his political support, lost by only 27,000 votes.

Though Baliles ran what one student of state politics called "a model underdog's campaign," political experts say it was probably the popularity of Charles S. Robb at the top of the ticket that got him elected.

Durrette is personally more outgoing than Baliles -- the kind of person who would seek and win the class presidency for four years at Virginia Military Institute. He is also a much better speaker.

But each has been reserved when it comes to suggesting any major changes. In keeping with the Virginia tradition, neither has proposed any. They say they are concentrating on defeating their party opponents rather than on issues at this stage.

Lt. Gov. Richard J. Davis, Baliles' opponent, is alleging that some Baliles delegates were improperly elected. If the party decides he is right, Davis claims, he can win the nomination. Rep. Stan Parris is reviewing his delegate counts and vowing to stay in the race, though Durrette has claimed that he has enough to win the nomination.

Despite all the similarities, Baliles and Durrette differ on some issues. Durrette takes solidly conservative stands, while Baliles is generally described as moderate-conservative. For example:

* Equal Rights Amendment: Baliles supports it; Durrette opposes it. Durrette voices concern about the possible impact on the armed services and "homosexual marriages."

* Abortions: Baliles has said he supports a woman's right to choose whether to have an abortion; Durrette is firmly antiabortion. Baliles has said he would veto a controversial bill to restrict abortions for minors if the measure is re-introduced next year; Durrette says he would work actively for it.

* Voter registration: Durrette said he "tends not to favor" a constitutional amendment aimed at opening more registration sites and lengthening hours by allowing local, state and federal employes to serve as volunteer registrars. Baliles favors the amendment, which must pass the General Assembly next year and be approved by voters in a referendum before it becomes law.

* Cabinet secretaries: Baliles wants a separate secretary of natural resources and secretary of commerce, a move favored by environmentalists. Durrette would keep the current set-up with one secretary of commerce and natural resources.

Rep. Frank R. Wolf this week announced the formation of a youth award program for those between the ages of 14 to 23 in Wolf's 10th Congressional District in Northern Virginia. The award is for "voluntary public service and personal excellence." The first award ceremony is planned for October. Information can be obtained from George Layne at 356-0700.