FORREST (FOB) JAMES (D), 42, former football star and millionaire manufacturer of plastic dumbbells, had trouble qualifying for the Democratic gubernatorial primary because he had been a major Republican fund-raiser. But once launched, his lavish media campaign promoting the "new beginning" for Alabama made him the popular choice to succeed retiring Gov. George C. Wallace (D). Guy Hunt (R), 45, his little-known opponent, will not block James.

Howell Heflin (D), 57, the state's former chief justice, demolished the primary opposition and has no GOP opponent in the race to succeed retiring Sen. John Sparkman (D).

The other Senate race provides the surprise possibility of a GOP victory in Alabama. In the Democratic runoff, state Sen. Donald Stewart (D), 38, upset Maryon Allen (D), who had been appointed to succeed her late husband, Sen. James B. Allen (D). Five weeks ago, ex-Rep. James D. Martin (R), 59, switched from challenging Heflin to face Stewart. A well-financed, business-backed campaign has depicted Stewart, a longtime foe of the utility companies, as a labor-oriented liberal - a tactic Stewart has tried to counter by emphasizing his strong defense and conservative fiscal views. The Democrat's disclosure last week of a teen-age nervous breakdown, treated by electric shock therapy, has not turned into a major issue. But private polls show Martin moving up within striking distance and Stewart is not immune from upset even in this heavily Democrtic state.

Rep. William L. Dickinson (R) has a strong opponent, but is favored in the only serious House race.