Joseph Abresch has one election-year gripe for Maryland politicians who want his vote: The lines are too long at Prince Frederick's public boat ramp.

Edith Hastein is afraid to use her favorite jogging trail in Bethesda because of the threat of crime. And John B. Ellis would like regular trash pickup in his Prince George's County neighborhood.

Are they chomping at the bit for change?

Not really.

In a state relatively free, for now, of crisis or scandal, Maryland residents seem preoccupied this summer with issues close to home. A few are steamed about taxes. A few are worried that the state may restrict, or refuse to restrict, access to abortions. Many others say they are concerned at least a little with broader issues such as environmental protection or transportation.

But with the state's Sept. 11 primary elections five weeks away, random interviews with about 100 residents across the state last month revealed an electorate with generally mild views about the candidates running for office and, in some cases, little sense of or interest in the functions of state government. At the same time, many of those interviewed had clear ideas about which problems they think politicians should address.

Rick Shefsted, 35, a computer technician from St. Mary's County, stood outside one of the new shopping malls that have become common as the Washington area's population boom has spread across the farms of Southern Maryland. In a region where tract houses are now as plentiful as tobacco fields, Shefsted said roads were foremost on his mind, and added he would not oppose higher gas taxes if that means an easier commuting trip to Washington.

Despite Maryland's ranking as a high-tax state, Shefsted's viewpoint recurred in random interviews. But equally strong were the sentiments of Frank Cavasina, owner of Captain Philip's Restaurant in Dundalk, a blue-collar Baltimore County community that shows few signs of recovering from the demise of shipbuilding in Maryland.

"Half the people don't know where the tax money goes," Cavasina said. "This is a working neighborhood, and people pay taxes, but they don't know what happens to the money."

Pockets of tax protesters upset about property assessments have put tax-limitation measures on the general election ballot in Montgomery, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties, and their activity could affect some races for the General Assembly or local offices. But the larger questions of tax redistribution or an increase in gasoline taxes -- distinct possibilities after the election -- don't seem to have sunk in statewide.

"I don't see any one issue that runs through the state itself that is moving mass numbers of voters," said Brad Coker, president of Mason-Dixon Opinion Research, a Maryland-based polling group.

Little wonder, too, considering Maryland's dramatic diversity. In a state that stretches 300 miles from the mountains to the sea, the maxim still holds: All politics is local.

Massive layoffs in the tire industry at picturesque Cumberland in the forest-covered mountains of Western Maryland are still the obsession of the town four years later. Nancy Miller, 37, a bookkeeper who was sitting on a bench in the nearly vacant downtown Cumberland Mall, had an instant response to a question about what's on her mind this election year: "The people need jobs, good-paying jobs."

About 90 miles east, in Frederick, a buyer for a sporting goods store, C. David Keeney, 36, is worried that the fast-growing city is becoming "oversaturated" with the kind of galloping expansion that drove some of Frederick's new residents out of Montgomery County in the first place.

In Columbia, the planned community in Howard County, Bruce Beckman wants "wholesale programs rammed through to protect our environment."

In West Baltimore, Vietnam veteran Dexter Vaughn, a car mechanic, is most concerned with housing for the poor and economic opportunities for blacks. Vaughn isn't happy with Gov. William Donald Schaefer's light rail system being built through Baltimore. "The rail system is going from white to white. It won't help blacks."

Political party leaders, sifting through the array of issues on voters' minds this summer, say the campaign season is too young for residents to have matched their feelings with the specific candidates running for office.

"It just looks like a whole lot of local issues that are emerging," said Tom Cowley, executive director of the state Democratic Party.

"Things are going smoothly at the national level and that has trickled down," said state Republican Party Chairwoman Joyce L. Terhes. "They're complacent."

GOP hopeful William S. Shepard, the most active of the three Republican candidates seeking the governor's seat held by Democrat Schaefer, has organized his campaign around two themes: that people in different parts of the state are disaffected with the Schaefer administration and that people throughout Maryland have tired of his combative and mercurial style.

However, opinion polls show that Schaefer's job performance rating remains high, a finding supported by Marylanders interviewed around the state recently. A Mason-Dixon poll last month of 824 likely state voters found that, while Schaefer's popularity had slipped over the previous six months in some parts of the state, 75 percent still regarded him as a strong and effective leader, while about 58 percent gave him a positive job rating.

Taking a break from mowing the lawn in the western mountain town of Frostburg, where Maryland's economic boom has created only a ripple, Fred Surgent, 46, assessed his feelings about Schaefer.

"In my 20 years here, we've never had as much attention from a governor," said Surgent, a professor of health and physical education at Frostburg State University. "He's done a heck of a lot for Western Maryland."

That type of support is not universal. As the softball team from Miller's Body Shop left the field in Talbot County, one state worker, who refused to give her name, said Schaefer's push for tourism is not fully welcome on the Eastern Shore, a once isolated region where development is pressing in.

"I would like to pull up all the 'Reach the Beach' signs and send them back to Annapolis," she said, referring to Schaefer's efforts to speed up the often-torturous trip to and from Maryland's ocean shoreline.

Feelings about Schaefer's governing style were even stronger. Residents from Havre de Grace, near the Pennsylvania border, to St. Mary's County in the south characterized the governor as temperamental and a self-promoter. She did not say she would vote against him because of it, but Mary Barnes, 55, a former schoolteacher from Harford County, said Schaefer's style annoys her.

"He has a lot of good ideas, but a little arrogance is coming through," said Barnes, who thinks the state should provide more services to the elderly.

Pat Gilstein, 38, is from Baltimore and said she knows the governor well. "The governor seems to do the unusual stuff," said Gilstein, who was shopping one morning recently in Columbia with 2-year-old daughter Evelyn. "He wants to do good things and then have people see the good things he's done."

Recent polls consistently show a large majority of Maryland residents support a woman's right to abortion. The issue has become central in a handful of legislative races, mostly in the Washington and Baltimore suburbs. Across the state, however, many residents interviewed by The Post said abortion, while a concern, is not the first factor they use in evaluating candidates.

Consultant John B. Ellis, who lives in the Largo-Kettering area of Prince George's County, was one of only a handful of those interviewed who said that, although he doesn't know what Maryland politicians are running this year, "I'm against abortion and I'll vote on that issue alone."

In Landover, Samuel F. Young, 23, is the kind of voter with more local concerns. He said transportation is high on his agenda this election year. "The {Metro} Green Line is great," said Young, who works at the National Institutes of Health, "but out here we need more buses, and they should run the bus system longer. You can't flag a cab here."

Mark Watson, a cook and accounting student, said county police are making progress in cleaning up drug trafficking in parts of his Landover neighborhood. But he said politicians should devise new approaches to dealing with drug-related crime.

"We should have better schools and more things for kids and young adults to do," said Watson, 25. "We need more community centers in black neighborhoods. They're paying taxes too."

Farther south in Charles County, Mary Lou Gray, 28, is rearing three children in one of the spanking new developments that have sprouted up.

Although she said "I am definitely voting this year," Gray echoed many others interviewed in conceding that she does not know much about Schaefer, her local member of Congress or the other candidates who will vie for her vote. Like many interviewed, her opinions on issues were more vague than specific.

"There's nothing that really stands out in my mind," she said.