AFTER SO MUCH POLITICAL dreariness in Maryland, this fall's campaign for governor is immensely refreshing in two respects. First, the need for far-reaching changes in state government is not an issue any more. Both Democrat Harry R. Hughes and Republican J. Glenn Beall Jr. reject "business as usual" in Annapolis and promise to try hard to sweep out all traces of the cronyism and corruption that have so tarnished the state.

Even more heartening is the fact that both contenders are decent , capable men with considerable experience and solid records in public office. Their proposals in some areas, notably economic development and governmental ovehaul, are based on the same non-partisan studies and sound much alike. There are important differences though, in the talents they would bring to the job, their approches to Maryland's fiscal challenges, and their general capacity to redirect the state. Those are the grounds on which we think Marylanders should base the choice between these two good men.

On one important count, selection of a runningmate, Mr. Beal is far ahead. he has greatly enhanced his ticket by enlisting Dr. Aris T. Allen, a black physician and former state legislator from Annapolis. A man of considerable savvy and compassion, Dr. Allen could have more impact as lieutenant governor, and is far more credible as a possible future governor, than Mr. Hughes' choice, maverick Prince George's County councilman Samuel W. Bogley 3rd. It's only fair to note, though, that the state's primary system compelled Mr. Hughes to fill out his ticket at a time when he was running far behind and had less to offer to a prospective running-mate.

On policy grounds, both men - like virtually all candidates this fall - emphasize cutting taxes and curbing the growth of government. But their concepts of retrenchment are not the same. Mr. Beall is proposing larger tax cuts and more relief for middle income taxpayers and homeowners Mr. Hughes favors directing tax relief more toward lower-income taxpayers and renters.

In general, while Mr. Beall emphasizes holding down state spending. Mr. Hughes puts more stress on overhauling the intricate structure of state-local fiscal relationships. Mr. Hughes is more sensitive, we think, to the potentially disruptive effects of arbitrary revenue cuts on public services. Moreover, he has long favored relying more heavily on the income tax, though he is not saying much about that right now. Mr. Beall's position is simple - and simplistic, in our view. He would veto any income tax increase that the legislature might purpose.

Mr. Hughes' greater discernment in this field stems at least partly from broader experience in state government and a keener understanding of public finance. And that points to a major difference in the two men's capabilities to carry out the changes they seek. By background and temperament. Mr. Hughes is more of an insider in the best sense of the word; he knows the state's bureaucratic machinery and is intellectually intrigued with making it work more effectively. He also has a sharp sense of where resistance is likely to lurk. Mr. Beall, on the other hand, is more the outsider - partly because Republicans in Maryland usually are, and partly because he has less executive experience. Thus Mr. Beall might have more political leeway to institute changes, but would have to rely more heavily on skilled appointees to see them through.

It's not an easy choice. That's good; a strong Republican bid for the state house is a welcome development in Maryland. Moreover, one can make a case for party turnover in Annapolis as the surest way to drive the old flock of rascals out. Yet Mr. Hughes is a sturdily independent man. On balance, we think he is better attuned than Mr. Beall to the financial and administrative problems that we believe will pose the toughest tests for the next governor of Maryland.

ITS EASY TO be brief about most of the congressional races in early Maryland this year. In the Fifth District (prince George's County), we'd stick with Democrat incumbent Gladys N. Spellman who has continued to do an earnest, creditable job. In the Fourth District (Prince George's and Anne Arundel Counties), we're stuck, we suspect, with Republican incumbent Marjorie S. Holt, whose voting record is dismal; her opponent, an attractive Democrat named Sue Ward, has been unable to moblize much of a campaign.

In the Sixth District (Central and Western Maryland), Democrat Beverly Byron has been appointed by both parties' leaders to succeed her husband, Rep. Goodloe E. Byron, who died suddenly Oct. 11. Mrs. Byron is a capable woman who knows this sprawling district well and can serve it diligently. the Republican line on the ballot is graced - to their shame - by one Melvin Perkins, a Baltimore indigent who got the nomination by default.

The best House scrap in the state is going on in the eight District (Montgomery County), where first term Republican Newton Steers is being pressed by Democrat Michael D. Barnes. Two years ago, when former Rep. Gilbert Gude retired from this seat, we endorsed Mr. Steers, on the grounds that he looked more promising than his opponent. History doesn't disclose its alternatives, but Mr. Steers has disappointed us; besides casting some unwise votes, notably in support of the Kemp-Roth tax-cut extravaganza, he has squandered his time and energy in a flurry of small projects and press releases.

And so, this time around, Mr. Steer's opponent looks to us more promising than Mr. Steers. Mr. Barnes is a lawyer who was executive director of the 1976 national Democratic platform committee and served on the Maryland public service commission until he resigned to run for the House. An aggressive spokesman for consumer interest while on the PSC, he has taken some glib positions, but he seems quick to learn.