It's the stuff of which political lore is made: two longtime politicians and arch enemies running for reelection to the same state Senate seat.

It's the 24th District Democratic primary in Prince George's County, where Sen. Decatur Trotter is up against the man he replaced, former state senator Tommie Broadwater Jr.

Both are running as incumbents.

Both are black politicians who want to help shepherd the movement to give the county's growing minority community more political clout.

The similarities stop there.

Before he was convicted of food stamp fraud in 1983, Broadwater was considered the dominant black leader in Prince George's County.

Trotter, then an Orphans Court judge and former member of the state House of Delegates, was appointed to the Senate seat in 1984 and was elected to it in 1986.

The roots of bitterness between the two candidates run deep, dating to 1978 when they squared off in a strident state Senate primary in what was then the 25th district.

Since then, the two have sparred publicly and privately in an ongoing feud that many have dubbed the "Bucky and Rocky Show." Trotter is commonly known as "Bucky," and Broadwater often is called "Rocky."

Trotter and Broadwater face two other candidates in the Sept. 11 primary. Herbert Jackson, former mayor of Glenarden and 20-year member of the town's council, said the county needs new voices in Annapolis. Trotter and Broadwater, he said, "were selected by the party in the past because they were available, they had the kind of jobs that could get them on the ticket. That is not leadership, that is selection. We need some new leaders who are going to help us solve our problems in this district."

James Whitley Jr., of Mitchellville, a firefighter in Washington, is the fourth candidate. He could not be reached for comment on his campaign.

There are no Republican Senate candidates in the district, which takes in a central section of the county running from the District of Columbia border to the Glenn Dale area and includes Seat Pleasant and Glenarden.

Although Trotter and Broadwater claim incumbency, neither is able to enjoy some of the perks that usually accompany the title, such as a spot on a countywide slate.

Trotter has been left off most of the top-to-bottom Democratic tickets in the county, marking the first time in recent years that an incumbent senator has been absent from a Democratic slate. Trotter said he was omitted because he supports two County Council candidates, Doyle Nieman and Donjuan Lee Williams, who are not favored by County Executive Parris N. Glendening. Trotter said he backed Nieman and Williams knowing that it was likely to lead to his omission from the ticket.

"The Prince George's situation is in dire need of independent, strong and intelligent leadership," Trotter said. "We feel that the voters in this county will vote on my record and recognize that we are offering them new and independent leadership that is not at the beck and call of the county executive or any other boss."

Broadwater interprets the exclusion of Trotter as a tacit endorsement of his own campaign. "They iced him," Broadwater said. "I think it was clear in the minds of these people that icing the incumbent would certainly help his challenger."

Glendening and other prominent politicians have been careful to sidestep this political feud, but observers say the county executive and other well-established politicians are giving Broadwater covert support.

All three Democratic incumbent members of the House of Delegates from the 24th District -- Nathaniel Exum, Carolyn B. Howard and Sylvania W. Woods Jr. -- are aligned with Trotter and were left off the county tickets too. Broadwater's slate includes two candidates for delegate, Joanne C. Benson and Dennis C. Smith. Stanley Derwin Brown is aligned with Senate candidate Jackson, and Antoinette Watson is a Democrat running independently.

Republican David S. Bernstein will face the top three Democrats in the Nov. 6 general election.

Exum, Howard and Woods are running on a platform that stresses their effectiveness as a team in Annapolis. Exum, an executive assistant for Potomac Technologies and a trustee for Metropolitan AME Church from Glenarden's Peppermill Village neighborhood, has been a delegate since 1975. Howard, an administrator with the Prince George's school system, was appointed to the House of Delegates in 1988 to replace the late Francis J. Santangelo Sr. Woods, a Glenarden businessman, has been a delegate since 1979.

Meanwhile, candidates Benson and Smith have emphasized stepping up the fight against drugs and creating more affordable housing. Benson, a Capitol Heights resident, is principal of John H. Bayne Elementary School and has been active in lobbying for increased school funding in Annapolis. Smith, who has served on the Glenarden Town Council for five years, lives in the Highland Park community. A lifelong county resident, Smith works for the Prince George's minority business opportunities commission.

Brown, who lives in Peppermill Village, is running with Senate candidate Jackson on a platform that stresses increased education spending and increased state spending to assist the district's battle against crime.

Watson, a Landover resident, said she is running for a delegate's seat because of concerns about education and crime. She said she supports the theories of controversial conservative politician Lyndon LaRouche.

Although he is the actual incumbent, Trotter has had difficulty raising money for his race. As of Aug. 7, Trotter had raised $35,230, compared with Broadwater's $90,269. Some say Broadwater's fund-raising abilities show that he has maintained popularity and political connections even while out of office.

"He is supposed to be the outsider . . . yet he is the one with the greatest access to the channels of power," said Smith, a delegate running on Broadwater's team.

But Trotter is wearing his independence as a badge rather than a stain, saying it represents his resolve and ability to champion the concerns of his district without worrying about political allegiances.

As a member of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, Trotter took a leadership role in pushing legislation to win minority business programs at the state and local level. His strength, he said, lies in his ability to work with the county's black political caucus in creating a united front to push for greater resources in the county.

"We are ushering into Prince George's County a new political era where concerns and issues are going to outweigh this kind of political slatemaking that almost hinges on monarchy," Trotter said. "There is strength in numbers and much to be gained by working together for a common goal."

Trotter's call for the end of "political bossism" is finding a receptive audience throughout the county, particularly among residents who see the successes of coalition building by black politicians elsewhere -- such as New York Mayor David Dinkins an Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder -- and yearn for that brand of progressive politics at home.

Parents gathered at a Mitchellville birthday party earlier this summer expressed concerns that Broadwater represented a step backward in county politics.

"Black political leadership is no longer in its infancy out here," said Edward Thomas, a computer analyst who lives in Mitchellville. "We need sophisticated leaders who can work shoulder to shoulder with one another. Broadwater expects to come back and be the boss, when the fact is that in this day and age there are lots of so-called bosses that, taken as a group, could be much more powerful, much more effective than he was when he was the only one and our numbers in this county were small."

In interviews with voters and politicians, Broadwater's fraud conviction does not appear to be a major liability. For the most part, Broadwater avoids discussing his financial and legal trouble. "I've paid my debt to society," he said. "I apologized publicly and it is time for me to move on."

Before his conviction derailed his political career, Broadwater's charisma and negotiating skills in key elections helped make him a powerful force in state politics. He could promise and deliver huge voting blocs in key elections in exchange for government facilities, powerful committee seats and the first black appointments to county commissions and boards.

Some voters see Broadwater's connections and negotiating style as useful, if not necessary, to a district struggling with drugs, crime and unemployment.

"I believe that Broadwater deserves another shot," said Ralph T. Clark, a local businessman and president of the Private Industry Council. "The man knows how to negotiate. He is the one who is going to bring home the biggest slice of bacon."

Some, particularly Trotter and his supporters, say Broadwater's Senate bid represents a throwback to a bygone era when a single black politician spoke for the masses.

"What happened when {Broadwater} was on the scene was we were getting crumbs, and the crumbs happened to be dispensed by Broadwater so he was considered the Godfather," said Sen. Albert Wynn (D-Prince George's). "People have to determine what they want. Do they want consensus-style leadership or do they want a Godfather?"

Broadwater said he is not trying to ressurect the era in which he was the grand potentate of black politics, but is looking forward to "working with the team."

"I am looking forward -- actually excited about working with the new breed of black politicians in the county," he said.

But almost in the same breath, the former senator laments "a lack of focus and leadership" among the county's black leaders. "They don't understand how to get power," he said. "They need someone there who is making it happen."