For singer Carly Simon, the Park Avenue fund-raiser for Rep. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) was not a typical evening out. "I hate cocktail parties. I hate talking to people like you," she told two reporters.

But Simon, standing somewhat nervously in a corner of the living room as uniformed waitresses passed around sushi and deviled eggs with caviar, wanted to brave the crowd anyway. Her friend, writer Nora Ephron, told her about it, and "every once in a while somebody stirs my imagination and I get on the bandwagon . . . . I think Barbara is one of those people who has the energy; you can feel it."

Why give $200 to somebody you've never met, whom you might never see again, who does not live anywhere near you and might never return the favor?

"In New York there's a cadre, there are many cadres, but there's an overall cadre that does politics," said Stanley Thomashow, an office supplies manufacturer from Brooklyn who made it clear that, unlike other successful business persons who contribute money to the arts or invest in the stock market, his diversion is politics.

"I give the maximum allowed to federal campaigns , $25,000. I will fund somewhere between 25 and 30 people," he said, "I like to give charitable, but it has to be left wing, ambulances for Nicaragua, that type of thing."

The Mikulski fund-raiser appealed to a group that cared about liberalism, feminism and electing the first Democratic woman to the Senate. Commented Ms. magazine editor Gloria Steinem, "The institutions of our lives have only begun to budge . . . . It's clear we badly need someone who can speak for us."

Actor Tony Randall, patting Mikulski comfortingly on the shoulder, put it another way: "You're our kind, and you have nothing to worry about."

A group of Texas Republicans, meeting days later in Dallas, also wanted to see their kind in the U.S. Senate, but they took a different view about who that was.

Texas Republican chairman George Strake said he was supporting Bethesda resident Linda Chavez out of "personal friendship." When Chavez was still at the White House, Strake said, she "helped me in some of the Hispanic areas of San Antonio."

Another reason, Strake said, was that "it's pretty important to me personally that we hold on to that seat."

"I think if we make that president go through the last two years of his term without control of the Senate, that's just a torture I don't want to put him through."

For these "real Republicans," as guest Jane Guzman put it, it was no new experience to help out-of-state candidates. "Oh, everybody comes here," said Guzman, a state leader of the National Federation of Republican Women who was wearing a golf-ball-sized amethyst-and-diamond-studded necklace. "This is where the money is."