The decision of Potomac's Anthony P. Puca to seek the Democratic nomination in Maryland's 6th Congressional District signaled possible fireworks in a race against five-term Rep. Beverly B. Byron.

If not exactly a promise of a photo-finish come March 8, the race at least promised an interesting and potentially explosive contrast of styles.

Byron is a conservative who votes with the Reagan administration more often than not.

She boasts of strong constituent ties and a decades-long family representation in the seat. Puca is an often passionate, frequently vitriolic candidate whose repeated campaigns for elective office have garnered name recognition and a considerable list of enemies in Democratic circles.

Yet although Puca paid the $100 filing fee in December, he has not waged a campaign. Puca said he fully intended to "campaign hard . . . and offer a choice," but he was forced to abort his efforts because of family and business demands after his daughter and his business partner became ill.

There have been no debates in the 6th District. No coffees, no battles for endorsements.

"I have not heard a word from Mr. Puca," Byron said.

"I campaign most of the time anyway. But {is this} a real campaign? No, I guess not."

Said Puca: "I wanted to offer the choice to choose between a traditional Democrat who opposes Reagan's domestic and foreign policies and an incumbent conservative.

"I was going to announce, and then get endorsements of unions. I was merely going to have a campaign . . . . But, I wound up having none."

The 6th District sweeps across Northern and Western Maryland, taking in Carroll, Frederick, Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties, and portions of Howard and Montgomery.

A parcel of Montgomery largely forgotten in the traditional spotlight on the 8th Congressional District, the 6th District roughly includes the western half of the county and the diverse interests of Barnesville, Damascus, Poolesville, Potomac and other areas.

Fourteen percent of the voters in the district are in Montgomery County.

Republican Kenneth Halsey of McHenry is running unopposed for his party's nomination. He will face the Democratic nominee in the November general election.

The senior member of the state's congressional delegation, Byron, 55, is the fourth member of her family elected to Congress in Western Maryland.

Her father-in-law and mother-in-law served in Congress in the 1940s.

Byron, a resident of Frederick, succeeded her late husband, Goodloe E. Byron, in the House seat in 1978. She is the chairman of the Armed Services subcommittee on personnel and compensation.

Byron, who said she represents a "basically conservative district," considers boosting employment in Western Maryland and "dealing with gridlock" the chief issues for her district in the next two years.

She said she is especially interested in drawing people into her district for the fast-growing service industries.

She is known as a strong supporter of environmental concerns.

Puca, 39, first sought elective office in 1978, in an unsuccessful bid for a General Assembly seat.

In 1986, he announced a run for Montgomery County executive but then declined to file for the post because of what he said was a possible conflict of interest with his job as president of American Business Services Corp., an office equipment firm.

Later that year, he took up his second campaign against state Sen. Laurence Levitan (D-Montgomery).

Caught in a tight three-way race that included Stephen Leas, Puca ended his bid one week before the primary to throw his support to Leas.

Puca's name still appeared on the ballot and he managed to get 8 percent of the vote, to Leas' 43 percent and Levitan's 49 percent.

Puca's attempt to unseat Levitan in 1982 is still recalled by county observers as one of the dirtiest political campaigns in Montgomery history.

That race, which prompted widespread news stories including one in The Wall Street Journal, saw Puca compile a newsletter about Levitan's record on ethics legislation, Levitan's wife make angry phone calls to Puca, a Puca press conference to play the answering machine tape of those calls for reporters, and an anonymous, harassing call to Puca's wife.

Puca received 3,777 votes to Levitan's 4,838.

Puca's proclivity for high-profile, emotional campaigning is well-known, and his inability to get off the ground this time sits just fine with Byron.

"I was aware {that a campaign against Puca} was a less than pleasant experience for Larry," Byron said.

Puca cited homelessness as the number one problem in the country and said he favors using vacant space in U.S. Army barracks as temporary housing for the homeless.

Puca also supports increased attention to deficit spending and more money for AIDS research, with funding coming directly from cuts in the defense budget.

As a solution to the problems of abused and missing children, Puca proposes that the heelprints of every child be entered into a national computer system.

Speaking about his three failed attempts and his "inability to devote" more time to this campaign, Puca said, "I have always wanted to be a public servant . . . . I'm frustrated. I feel like I might be in the right place at the wrong time."