ITS PROBABLY too early in VIrginia's campaigns for the governorship to accuse Democrat Henry E. Howell or Republican John N. Dalton of neglecting the issues. But it's not too early to suggest that they are inventing issues that hardly seem worth talking about.

Mr. Howell, for example, made much ado late last month in Roanoke when he said he'd produce evidence of serious conflicts of interest in the record of Mr. Dalton. But, as staff writers Paul G. Edwards and Megan Rosenfeld reported last week, Mr. Howell then left on vacation without offering a shred of evidence to support his shrill allegation. His aides said they didn't have any, either. Mr. Howell returned and then issued a statement calling Mr. Dalton "an honest man" but saying that the GOP candidate had a poorly developed sense of conflict of interest.

To follow up this fizzle, Mr. Howell then turned against the press for not paying enough attention to his allegations. It would be easier to do so, however, had there been more substance to them than Mr! Howell has yet produced.

Mr. Dalton, meanwhile, has been talking as if the chief issue were repeal of Virginia's right-to-work law. It's a swell topic, but as staff writer Ken Ringle notes in a column to appear in this Thursday's Virginia Weekly section, repeal of the right-to-work law in Virginia isn't what you'd call high on the agenda of a General Assembly that can't even ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

Though it's not always the case, we have a hunch that, in this particular contest, each candidate is capable of waging a far more interesting campaign than we've been watching up to now. Heaven knows there's still plenty of time for it. MEanwhile, at least voters can have some fun seeing how - or if - each of the party tickets gets its act together. The Howell - Charles S. Robb-Richard E. Lane so-called "raibow ticket" and the Dalton-S. Joe Canada-J. Marshall Coleman combination offer a little philosophical something for just about everyone. It may well turn out that, as the campaign progresses, the performances of the candidates who are running with Mr. Howell and Mr. Dalton may prove pivotal in determining who captures the top spot.