Baltimore County Executive Donald Hutchinson is running for the U.S. Senate, but, quite frankly, he'd rather be governor of Maryland.

He says about a bid for the governorship, however, that he "can't win this year as long as (Baltimore Mayor) Don Schaefer's a candidate."

"If you came in to me and said: 'I have the appointment power to make you governor or U.S. senator: Which would you choose?' I'd say I'd rather be governor," Hutchinson said in a recent interview.

But he said he believes that there is no way Schaefer can lose the governor's race, "unless he runs over somebody in a car." He also predicted that the organization support for state attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Stephen H. Sachs "is going to fall apart."

Last year, the betting was that Hutchinson, who cannot run for a third term for county executive, would make a bid for the House of Representatives instead of the Senate. His decision not to challenge Republican Rep. Helen Bentley was read by some as a sign that Hutchinson thought she was unbeatable.

Not so, said Hutchinson. But he agreed that Bentley, who is being challenged instead by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, will be a tough candidate. "I can beat her (Bentley), but nobody else can," he said.

The Senate race is expected to be an uphill one for Hutchinson, and he acknowledges that he will have a tough fight in winning the votes of some regions and constituencies.

"Montgomery County is going to vote for (Maryland Democratic Rep.) Mike Barnes," he said. And another candidate, Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), is running ahead of Hutchinson in the polls, not only in Baltimore City, her home base, but also in Hutchinson's Baltimore County. Hutchinson still says he still expects to win Baltimore County.

From constituency groups, he expects minimal support, he said.

"One of the unfortunate things is . . . in a primary election, you're much more likely to have special interest groups voting special interests -- senior citizens voting for who is going to protect Social Security, labor voting for who is going to protect labor. But that's the race I lose, because I can't make that special interest appeal," he said.

He also said he expects Baltimore County's Jewish voters, who have supported him in the past, to back Mikulski.

So where is his support going to come from, then?

From the "middle-ground constituency," which will provide 27 to 32 percent, enough to win a four-way primary race, according to Hutchinson. He described himself as "mainstream of the middle part of the party."

Hutchinson said he sees Mikulski as the one to beat, attributing her popularity to "personality" and "character."

But he dismissed the chances of Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes, because of the savings and loans crisis. Referring to Barnes' work on the Hill in foreign relations, Hutchinson described the Montgomery County Democrat as merely the leader of a "small subcommittee that is relatively inconsequential."

He recalled that "Steve Sachs grabbed me two months ago and said, 'You and I have the same problem: 'We're both running against people that are caricatures of themselves."

Hutchinson said his strategy will be to focus on the differences in styles between Mikulski and himself.

Said Hutchinson: "Am I combative? Do I work towards the headline, as opposed to try to get into the backroom to make some tough decisions?

". . . I think Barbara Mikulski likes to raise hell, without worrying about results."

During Mikulski's 10 years in the House, she has not had an impact "on one major issue," Hutchinson charged. "She can brag about Baltimore dredging all she wants, but Helen Bentley was the difference in that issue."

Jim Abbott, a spokesman for Mikulski, disagreed. He said that Mikulski was active in keeping the momentum on the port dredging issue going during the first four years of the Reagan administration, when many predicted it would be impossible to get money.

He said that last year Mikulski played a key role, along with other members of Congress, including Bentley, in getting port dredging approved.

He said Mikulski also was active in fights for hospital cost containment legislation, to save jobs at the Social Security Administration, and to attract a professional football team to Maryland.

Bill Bronrott, a spokesman for Barnes, said, "It is really unfortunate that any candidate has to rely on a negative campaign in order to get a message across. . . . Mike has already proven his ability to be a leader in the Congress," and cited Central America, human rights, and drunk driving as issues on which Barnes has been a key participant.