You can invite Maryland legislators to a free, overnight bash at a fancy hotel, but don't count on them showing up -- at least not when more interesting opportunities are clogging their agendas.

Montgomery County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist invited 70 key state legislators to Bethesda's new Hyatt Regency Hotel next weekend to wine, dine and lobby them on the county's attributes, but he canceled the $4,500 fete yesterday because only a half-dozen lawmakers had accepted.

Apparently no snub was intended; most just had better things to do. House Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Baltimore) and some other legislative leaders, for example, will be attending a national conference in Lake Tahoe, Calif., while House Ways and Means Committee members will be attending a retreat at a posh estate on the Susquehanna River once owned by the president of General Motors.

"I think its unfortunate. We'll try it again, though," said Thomas Stone, the county's State House lobbyist.

Others, however, are not so sure that this would be a good move. "It was a ludicrous idea to begin with," said state Sen. Howard Denis (R-Montgomery). "This was never more than Uncle Rich inviting in the outlanders to show them our needs. The whole thing was preposterous."