A delegation of Hungarian elected officials was in Montgomery County District 16 recently to observe the democratic process. They watched House of Delegates candidate Jonathan Cohen's campaign staff registering people to vote in a parking lot of a Giant Food store. Then they followed Cohen as he went door-to-door to campaign.

In a quiet Democratic primary campaign that stands in stark contrast to some of the fireworks in other Montgomery County legislative races, the Hungarian visit, which was broadcast to Hungary that very day, was among the highlights of the summer season.

The candidates have taken a low-key approach in their campaigns, emphasizing their own individual interests, without much criticism of their rivals. Even the issue of abortion, which has generated a great deal of debate throughout the state this year, has been mute here, since all four Democrats running for the three delegate seats support a woman's right to an abortion.

There is no primary in the Senate race, but Republican incumbent Howard Denis will face Democratic challenger Charles F. Chester in the Nov. 6 general election.

District 16, which encompasses Bethesda, has a high number of white-collar government employees and a reputation for fielding independent-minded Democrats and Republicans. The winners of the Sept. 11 Democratic primary will face three Republican candidates -- George Jenkins, Robert M. McCarthy and Nelson M. Rosenbaum -- in November.

Cohen, 27, a lawyer specializing in patent and trademark law, said his main concerns are substance abuse and discrimination against the disabled.

Cohen said there is a need for a publicly supported rehabilitation program in the Bethesda area. The program, he said, could be paid for with money raised from the tax on alcohol.

"If we look at the fact that, economically, substance abuse is very draining {through} missed work, crime . . . . In the long run, it saves money," Cohen said.

Cohen, a former camp counselor for the mentally retarded and a founder of the Special Olympics program at the University of Maryland, also favors strengthening incentives, particularly in the awarding of state contracts, to encourage businesses to hire the disabled.

One-term incumbent Brian E. Frosh, 43, said his major concerns revolve around the environment, and he cited his accomplishments on the Environmental Matters Committee of the House of Delegates. He was a sponsor of the Maryland Recycling Act, which will eventually require the counties and the state to recycle 1 million tons of trash a year.

Frosh, a lawyer in private practice, also supported new laws to prohibit oil drilling in the Chesapeake Bay or its tributaries and to control fuel exploration on land. The Omnibus Oil Spill Protection Act, which Frosh also sponsored, increases penalties for major oil spills -- up to $100 a gallon for spills that exceed more than 25,000 gallons. The act also expands liability to the major oil companies, not just the owners of the offending vessel.

Gilbert J. "Gil" Genn, 38, also a one-term incumbent, said his major priorities if reelected would include banning assault weapons "because they serve no useful societal purpose for the civilian force." Genn was a leading author of the 1988 gun-control law to regulate "Saturday Night specials."

Genn, a lawyer, also favors a bottle bill to help clean up the environment. He wants to introduce new state policies that would prevent abusive spouses from gaining custody of their children, and hold women who use drugs during their pregnancies accountable for the quality of life of their infants. He also favors legislation that would close the "double jeopardy" loophole in state law that prohibits the courts from trying a person accused of vehicular manslaughter if that person already has paid a traffic citation for the same offense.

Four-term incumbent Nancy K. Kopp, 46, said that as a member of the House Appropriations Committee and chairman of the committee's panel on education and human resources, she would continue to monitor the state's delivery of services for families and children and for elementary, secondary and higher education.

Kopp supports reform of the foster-care program and increased funding for prevention programs such as those to keep families together. Even with a projected $20 million deficit in the state Department of Human Resources budget this year, Kopp said improvements should be made.

"We will have to spend wisely and cut out some programs that are good but maybe not necessary," she said. "We should put more money in the front end rather than trying to remedy problems after they have occurred."

Kopp said the state also should tie funding for elementary and secondary education to achievement of established goals for students such as in standardized tests and reducing the drop-out rate.

The three incumbents also said they have some reservations about the proposed trolley between Bethesda and Silver Spring, including concerns over the final operating costs and projections that it may spur development in downtown Bethesda. The incumbents said they would prefer that the $70 million in construction money offered by the state be used either to improve East-West Highway or to extend the Metrorail system north of Shady Grove.

Cohen said he would support the trolley if the state money that has been promised is actually delivered.