After 31 years in Montgomery County, Republican Connie Morella still has the broad vowels and distinctive accent of her native Somerville, Mass., a working-class city next door to Boston.

She also carries with her three political lessons learned in that thoroughly Democratic enclave: Knock on doors. Organize. And knock on doors some more.

Morella, 55, is running in a primary election this September, but already has set her sights on the Nov. 4 general election. Her strategy depends on a number of variables, none more important than increasing her visibility outside her base in affluent Bethesda.

To that end, Morella is doing what any good Somerville alderman does: She is walking the 8th District from Gaithersburg to Silver Spring, knocking on doors for votes.

Hers is no easy task. Despite her popularity in Bethesda, where she has been twice elected to the House of Delegates in Annapolis by comfortable margins over Democrats, Morella will tread on solidly Democratic turf as she moves from Rockville to Wheaton and Colesville.

Confident that most Republicans will be in her corner, she now is scratching for unregistered voters and conservative Democrats.

If Morella survives the primary, as many GOP leaders believe she will, her liberal record on a variety of social issues such as women's rights will probably cause some defections from the Democratic Party in November.

Her more conservative stands, particularly on government spending, could hurt her among Democrats.

Morella's strongest asset could well be her own engaging personality and warm sense of humor, tested by a number of political perils -- and the nine children she and her husband Anthony, a lawyer and Republican activist in his own right, have reared.

Morella, one of only two Republicans in Montgomery County's 21-member Maryland House delegation, generally maintained a low profile in her years in Annapolis while building strong ties to her district.

An English professor at Montgomery College since 1970, she has been active on local groups such as the county Commission for Women, which she chaired, and an advisory board on the C&O Canal National Historical Park and the Cub Scouts.

Morella already has been endorsed by the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is expected to funnel significant contributions to her campaign, and by the Maryland GOP's elder statesmen, including retiring Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr. and former representatives Gilbert Gude and Newton Steers.

"The same quality that made her so popular in her own district needs to be transmitted to the voters of the 8th," Steers said in recent interview. "If voters get to know that sparkly personality, she's the kind of candidate who can win."