Political buffs in Illinois' 22nd District say this year's congressional primary is highly unusual because of the number of candidates and the money and energy they have poured into the race.

Another unusual aspect of the contest, according to the local news media, is the presence of The Washington Post.

About a dozen local newspapers have run articles to advice readers that The Post - "chronicle of the important and pretenders to being important," as the Decatur Herald described it - is in their midst. Radio stations, too, have found The Post's interest to be newsworthy.

One paper, the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette, has run The Post series in its entirety - a considerable commitment of space for a paper its size.

In an editor's note preceding the series, the News-Gazette said The Post had done "an excellent job of gathering information," but that the articles were "condescending" at some points.

Robert Harley, a columnist for six central Illinois papers, applauded The Post's interest, observing that "the decision-makers who have retreated to the comfort of Washington's suburbs can use a dose of what it's like out here."

Hartley said the articles were written "without exaggeration . . . The picture painted for Washingtonians . . . is, on the whole, accurate."

Republican candidate Dan Crane told the Danville paper that The psot series was a "disservice to journalism" because it unfairly painted him as a reactionary. (Later, however, Crane said that he meant to say that The Post reports were "not all that bad.")

Portions of The Post series - those that particular candidates consider flattering - have received wide circulation.

Republican Gene Stunkel urged several local papers to reprint The Post articles describing his successful business career.

Crane mentioned in his standard campaign speech The Post's comment that he would not alter his political views to curry favor with voters.

Democrat Terry Bruce distributed 55,000 copies of The Post article that first discussed him and his opponents. He, too, regularly quotes in his speeches The Post's assessment of his campaign.

His chief opponent, Don Watson, in contrast, told the Danville paper he doesn't think much of The Post and doesn't care what it says.