Not everyone who runs for public office does so with a high expectation of winning. Sometimes, people run largely for the opportunity to air their views.

The campaigns of Thomas Hartman and Harwood Nichols are cases in point.

Hartman, a Democrat, was touting the success of his campaign for county executive even as he was withdrawing his name from the ballot.

Hartman, who was challenging incumbent Elizabeth Bobo (D), said he entered the race only to "initiate a dialogue in the Democratic Party over what really happens when growth controls are put in place. I think I accomplished that."

An executive for a high-tech company and a member of the county's Human Rights Commission, Hartman has argued that the county's attempts to rein in growth will make it more difficult for people to find affordable housing.

"I knew from the start that there was no possibility that I would be successful in the primary," Hartman said.

Had he remained in the race, he said, he would have run the risk of hurting the Democrats' chances of holding on to the county executive's office. With the Hartman withdrawal, Bobo has no opposition in the primary.

Republican Harwood Nichols's campaign for the U.S. House seat held by Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) represents a soapbox of another sort.

Nichols also knows he is a long shot but has no plans to pull out of the race early. He is an unorthodox campaigner who freely concedes that despite being a lifelong Republican, he voted for Democrats Lyndon B. Johnson and Hubert H. Humphrey in the 1964 and 1968 presidential races.

Nichols, a banker who lives in Baltimore, said his political heroes are Ho Chi Minh, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. -- people "who didn't stand a chance of being elected as part of the political mainstream."

Emulating his heroes, Nichols said, he hopes to use his candidacy to "start sowing the seeds of truth around the area." His truth: The Democratic-led Congress is so "enslaved to special interests that it ignores the general welfare."

Why else, he asks, would Congress have voted for changes in banking laws that helped create the savings and loan crisis?

"I would be happy to vote for Ben Cardin if he were a Republican," Nichols said. "But when you vote for Ben Cardin, you vote to keep in power the people who seem unable to solve the very difficult problems that face us today . . . . I believe that if you find people who can't deliver, even if they are Republicans, you throw them out of office. And you keep throwing people out until you get what you want."

Nichols is the first to admit that ousting the incumbent -- or even winning his primary fight against Columbia electrical engineer Fredric M. Parker -- won't be easy.

"Even with good name recognition, which I don't have, and even with a million-dollar war chest, I don't think I could unseat Ben Cardin the way the things stand now," Nichols said.

But Nichols said he could win if people start holding legislators accountable.

"I feel a little like the kid who wants to ask the cheerleader for a date," Nichols said. "You know she'll probably say no. But then again you might ask her on the day she decides her boyfriend is a jerk." Republicans in the Running

Meanwhile, the free ride of Paul R. Farragut (D-District 4) to another term on the County Council ended Monday when Michael J. Deets accepted the Republican nomination for the post.

Deets, a 24-year-old member of the Columbia Council, was one of three last-minute entries by Republicans in formerly uncontested races.

James Morgan, 35, declared himself a challenger to Del. Virginia M. Thomas (D-District 13A) and Bill Thies announced his intention to run for register of wills against Democrat Kay K. Hartleb.

All three missed a June 2 filing deadline but will be listed on the November ballot because of a state law permitting political parties to nominate candidates in uncontested races through last Tuesday.

Deets said he is seeking the council seat representing the western half of Columbia because he is unhappy that more hasn't been done to manage growth in the county. He also pledges to work to expand county recycling.

Deets, an associate with a Washington labor research firm, discounted what could be the biggest hurdle in his campaign: his age. He will be 25 on Sept. 12.

"It hasn't affected the work I do on the Columbia Council, where the other members are older than I am. They treat me as a peer," Deets said.

The District 4 race will be Farragut's first County Council challenge. He was appointed to his seat in April 1989 to replace Ruth Keeton, who stepped down because of illness.

"I welcome competition. I'm a believer in the two-party system," Farragut said.

Deets's entry into the race leaves only County Council member C. Vernon Gray (D-District 3) unopposed this year.

Thomas was without a challenge until Morgan jumped into the race in District 13A, which covers eastern Columbia. He is the brother of John S. Morgan, who is running as a Republican for the District 13B seat.

James Morgan, a computer programmer for a telephone company, said he accepted his party's nomination "to make my contribution to the two-party system. We should have competition in all races so people have a choice. That's something they don't have a lot of in Maryland."

The only other change on the Howard County ballot announced last week was the withdrawal of former federal prosecutor Daniel J. Hurson from the Republican primary for Maryland attorney general. He leaves Republican Edward L. Blanton Jr. to face incumbent Democrat J. Joseph Curran Jr. Surprise Endorsements

Howard County's largest political club, the Columbia Democratic Committee, handed out its endorsements last week. The biggest news was not who received endorsements but who didn't.

Sheriff Herbert Stonesifer failed to win the club's support even though he out-polled the two Democratic rivals who were at the meeting, Michael A. Chiuchiolo and George W. Cunningham.

Several club members raised questions about Stonesifer's handling of incidents involving two high-ranking deputies who are accused of exchanging Nazi salutes while on duty.

Stonesifer, who is reviewing a state police report on the deputies' actions, said he can't discuss many aspects of the case because of the privacy provisions in Maryland's police bill of rights. He did say he opposes all forms of "bigotry."

The Columbia Democratic Committee's endorsement is important to candidates because of the campaign help it brings. The political club this year plans to mail literature listing its endorsements to residents in about half of Columbia's 31 precincts.

Club members also will go door to door in selected neighborhoods to drop off sample ballots and other literature for endorsed candidates.

In most cases, incumbent Democrats won support from the 75 members who voted July 11. But State Sen. Thomas M. Yeager (13th District) and U.S. Rep. Beverly B. Byron (6th District) were not endorsed. Byron suffered the added slight of having her Democratic challenger, Anthony P. Puca, endorsed instead.

Club members said they consider Yeager and Byron too conservative for Columbia.

Club members endorsed Bobo and all four incumbent Democrats on the County Council, including Chairman Shane Pendergrass (District 1). Pendergrass is the only member facing a primary fight. She's being challenged by Ilchester activist William Smith.

The only other vote of note involved a race for Circuit Court judge. Incumbent James B. Dudley lost the club's endorsement to JoAnn C. Woodson Branche on a second ballot. Dudley fell just two votes shy of winning the endorsement on the first ballot.