The race for Montgomery County executive turned negative yesterday as the write-in campaign for incumbent Sidney Kramer unleashed a series of ads and mailings attacking Democratic nominee Neal Potter as showing "a total lack of sensitivity to human needs."

The campaign offensive -- which charges that a Potter administration would lead to "higher taxes for everyone" while hurting the disabled, senior citizens and women -- came less than a week before Tuesday's election, with one poll showing Kramer trailing by a wide margin.

"This is trashy stuff," said County Council member Bruce T. Adams, running for reelection on a Democratic slate with Potter. "A smear job," said Richard Crane, Potter's campaign manager.

However, Kramer and the woman who is spearheading his citizens group defended the campaign strategy, saying they were simply providing information on Potter and exposing parts of his record he would prefer to keep hidden.

"We think we are telling people things about Mr. Potter they need to know," said Fran Abrams, head of Citizens to Write In Sid Kramer. She said response to the ads and the mailings to teachers, the elderly and the disabled has been very positive.

A Kramer ad that appeared in yesterday's Montgomery Journal and weekly papers in the county said Potter "has stated that women should not hold leadership positions."

Abrams said the statement was based on a claim by County Council member Rose Crenca that Potter had once told her he would not support her for council president because she is a woman. Potter denied ever making such a statement.

Potter, who said he was more amused than angered by some of the charges, said he has supported the bids of several women for council president and has worked for women candidates. His key aide is a woman.

The Kramer campaign also points to a memo that Potter wrote in March to the head of the county's transit services questioning the policy of bus subsidies for the elderly and the disabled. He said some residents over 60, like himself, are "very well off" and can afford full fares.

"And what is the definition used for 'handicapped,' " the memo asked. "Simply having a limp?" Potter suggested in the memo that the county use a means test for reduced fares.

"I've felt that subsidies to people that are extremely well off don't make much sense," Potter said of the memo.

Meanwhile, county school officials are investigating a complaint by the teachers union, which is backing Potter, about how the home addresses of teachers were obtained. Maryland's public information law forbids the disclosure of such information without the permission of employees.