ANNAPOLIS, JULY 25 -- Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who feuded with the General Assembly for much of the last four years, has become the best buddy of nearly a dozen legislators as the 1990 elections approach.

A prohibitive favorite to win reelection for a second term, Schaefer has decided even to wade into Democratic primaries to help those he considers allies in the legislature, according to aides.

Schaefer will campaign on behalf of the candidates, be included in their literature and help them raise money. In addition, the state Democratic Party plans to devote nearly $200,000 to a list of candidates in the general election that closely parallels those Schaefer supports.

Schaefer already has $1 million on hand for his campaign, but aides said he was more inclined to help candidates raise money than give them much of his own. Transferring money from one campaign to another is a longstanding tradition in Maryland, and legislative efforts to curb the practice have never gotten far.

But most expect Schaefer to be active in other ways. "Knowing the governor as a hands-on guy, I'm sure he'll get involved in some local races, pick his spots," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's). "His endorsement is beneficial in any area of the state because of his outstanding name recognition."

Legislators said Schaefer appears to be trying to help those closest to him politically, including Senate Majority Leader Clarence W. Blount (D-Baltimore), rather than trying to defeat his critics. Sen. Laurence Levitan (D-Montgomery), for instance, needled Schaefer by halfheartedly considering a race against him, and said afterward that he expected Schaefer's wrath in the fall.

But by focusing on his friends rather than his enemies, aides say Schaefer collects political chits to be redeemed after the election.

Ricki Baker, Schaefer's campaign spokesman, said the governor will "expend a lot of energy" on behalf of other candidates. But she said he has made no commitments on financing those campaigns. Rather, Baker said, he will appear with the candidates in their districts and help in printing some literature.

The Schaefer campaign is not eager to talk about endorsements, Baker said, because "we don't like to give information to the opposition."

Another adviser to Schaefer said some candidates have approached the campaign for money. "We'll do as much as in the past, but we want to run a first-class campaign of our own, including television, and that's expensive," the adviser said.

Del. Charles J. Ryan (D-Prince George's), one of six candidates for three House seats from the 23rd District, said he got word from the governor's office earlier this month that he would get extra help from Schaefer.

Ryan, chairman of the influential Appropriations Committee, said he is arranging for Schaefer and Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg each to campaign one day with him in the district. "They won't transfer money to my campaign, but if I have an event, they'll help put it together, help pay for it and raise money," Ryan said. "He put the word out."

In the Sept. 11 primary, aides said, Schaefer's favorites include Ryan, Sen. Frank J. Komenda (D-Prince George's) and House Majority Leader John S. Arnick (D-Baltimore County), all of whom face substantial opposition. The House leadership, including Ryan, has been decidedly more solicitous of the volatile governor than have top senators.

Schaefer also is expected to support Christopher Van Hollen Jr., one of nine Democrats and one Republican seeking three House of Delegates seats in Montgomery County's 18th District. Van Hollen formerly was on the governor's Washington staff.

And Schaefer is considering giving a hand to Patricia K. Cushwa, whom he named to the seat from Allegany and Washington counties after her husband, Victor Cushwa, left the Senate this spring to take an appointment on the Maryland Public Service Commission. An aide said the governor will go into Cushwa's district "with guns blazing" if she wins the Democratic primary.

Three Democrats confronting Republican challengers in the Nov. 6 general election also are described as being on Schaefer's priority list: Sens. Edward J. Kasemeyer (Howard-Montgomery) and Philip C. Jimeno (Anne Arundel), and Del. Casper R. Taylor Jr. (Allegany-Washington).