Forty-eight hours after Rep. Roy P. Dyson won the Democratic Party's nomination to Congress last week, an obscure group called the Free State Republican Fund distributed an attack video it began airing Friday in Dyson's district.

The group's ad, declaring Dyson was "bought in Washington, paid for in Maryland" because of his sizable contributions from special interest groups, was quickly disavowed by Republican nominee Wayne T. Gilchrest, who has pledged an issue-oriented campaign.

But it was a sign that voters in Maryland's 1st Congressional District are in for a bumpy ride as Dyson and Gilchrest, who came within 1,540 votes of winning two years ago, prepare for a November rematch.

The race will draw national attention. National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Ed Rollins said he "will throw every resource we can" to help defeat a man they consider one of the country's most vulnerable Democrats. At the same time, state GOP officials say they hope Gilchrest can amass as much as $700,000 for the effort, far more than in 1988, when he was all but abandoned by the party until the closing stages of his longshot campaign.

The race also will determine whether Dyson can successfully overcome a controversy that began with the suicide of his chief aide, Thomas M. Pappas, in May 1988, the day that The Washington Post published a detailed account of unorthodox management practices in the congressman's office. Although Dyson narrowly survived the election that fall, the Pappas incident and subsequent disclosures about the extent of Dyson's campaign contributions from defense companies led candidates in both parties to smell blood.

"We have to get in there this time," said state Republican Party Chairman Joyce Lyons Terhes.

The battle will be fought on territory that is a mix of Maryland's past and present.

The district sprawls across 13 counties that include suburban areas north of Baltimore and south of Washington where citizens want relief from crowded roads and schools and bemoan the loss of countryside. It also encompasses the tobacco farms of Southern Maryland and the waterfront hamlets of the Eastern Shore, areas from which Dyson, scion of politically prominent families, has drawn his political might and folksy style.

The candidates differ on a host of issues. Gilchrest favors a woman's right to choose abortion, while Dyson is against the procedure. Gilchrest has supported state gun control efforts; Dyson has been backed by the National Rifle Assocation. Gilchrest also is expected to portray himself as more serious about protecting the environment -- a sensitive issue in a district that borders the Chesapeake Bay but also has pockets of poverty that some say could benefit from taxes generated by development.

Despite a reservoir of support for Dyson in the district, the controversy over his record in office nearly spelled victory in 1988 for Gilchrest. The Kent County schoolteacher, who had become the GOP nominee in a primary two months before Pappas's suicide, was by November the beneficiary of a surging protest vote against Dyson.

This time around there is added ammunition: Two weeks before Tuesday's primary elections there were disclosures that Dyson, a hawk on the House Armed Services Committee who had accepted more than $100,000 in campaign contributions from the defense industry, was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. Gilchrest received a Purple Heart during the war after being shot in the chest, something he said will not be in "blazing, bold, blinking lights" during the campaign, but will not be forgotten either.

The question to be answered Nov. 6 is: Will any of this matter?

Dyson campaign aide Christopher Robinson said the answer is an emphatic no.

"If the Republicans through whatever organizations fund a negative campaign, they will find that they are making a mistake," Robinson said. "The people of the 1st District sorted out everything that is being said" about Dyson, and still support him.

There were some encouraging signs in Tuesday's primary for the 41-year-old congressman, a career politician who prides himself on constituent service and delivering federal jobs and dollars to the district. He captured a clear majority of the vote in a four-way race, and his total of 36,519 votes was more than the turnout in the eight-way Republican primary.

That latter fact, Robinson said, is a telling sign of the Democratic Party's continuing edge. Although Democratic registration has been dropping for a decade, the party has 157,000 voters to the GOP's 94,000.

But not all the news was good. It is unclear, for example, whether the Democratic Party will mount a significant effort on Dyson's behalf. The seat historically has been Republican -- Dyson won in 1980 when conservative incumbent Robert Bauman was arrested and later convicted of soliciting sex from a boy.

And, although Dyson outdistanced each of his three Democratic primary opponents, the challengers, chiefly state Del. Barbara O. Kreamer, drew a combined 46 percent of the vote and beat Dyson in five counties. In the end, an aide to Kreamer said her poorer-than-expected showing was as much due to the weakness of her campaign as it was to Dyson's strength.

"I would not take much encouragement from my results in the primary if I were Roy Dyson," said Kreamer aide Robert DeWeese. "He is going to need a lot more than 54 percent of the Democrats to pull this one off."

Kreamer was hurt in her campaign by the same thing that aided Gilchrest in his easy primary win over seven other GOP hopefuls: name recognition.

Kreamer began the race as a little-known state delegate who needed to conserve her cash for the end of the campaign. For the most part, she had to stick to a door-to-door, festival-to-festival brand of campaigning difficult to sustain in the far-flung district.

In addition, DeWeese said there was a sense toward the end of the campaign that Dyson may have benefited from a sympathy vote, according to comments voters made to Kreamer's telephone canvassers.

Gilchrest insists he will not make that mistake.

"I don't like to be negative. I don't like to be bitter," Gilchrest said. "As soon as you start to be negative you have run out of ideas."

In that regard, Gilchrest said he expects to come under fire himself this time. Two years ago, he was an unknown novice traipsing around the district with his wife and three children in a dusty car -- a curiosity that attracted people's attention.

This time the novelty is gone. While Gilchrest remains something of an enigma -- arriving at candidate forums in rumpled suits and telling riddles -- he does have positions to defend after the long, and spirited, GOP primary.

During that race the seven other Republican hopefuls attacked his stands as too liberal, and two have said they will not endorse him because he supports abortion rights.

Gilchrest said he welcomes debating his opponent.

"What happened in the last campaign {is that} I was treated as a novelty and not scrutinized," Gilchrest said. "This time we have to simply expect to be looked at with a microscope."