IN TRUTH, we are pleased with the results - so far - of Tuesday's primary elections, especially with Marion Barry's apparent victory. More than that, we are pleased with certain indisputable tendencies the electorate showed, and they seem to us worth discussing while the city awaits the final counting of the vote for mayor. Those tendencies, simply put, were to give a swift kick to a whole collection of condescending assumptions and expectations concerning who could and would "deliver" whom in the elections. Happily, as it turned out, none of the traditional delivery systems in fact delivered; no dominant force called the shots.
By dominant forces we mean business, labor, church, and various racial, professional and social groups. First, consider the business community. In the mayoral race, its support was divided among the candidates, meaning that many prominent business figures wound up in the corner of a losing candidate. True, successful council chairman candidate Arrington Dixon enjoyed heavy Board of Trade backing, but so did at-large candidate H. R. Crawford - who lost big to Betty Ann Kane. And if ministers are supposed to make or break candidates in this town, it wasn't all that clear. Most of them were said to have supported Walter Washington and Douglas E. Moore. One highly popular minister-politician - Walter Fauntroy - threw his support around with some flare, even assembling a Fauntroy "ticket." In his own race for delegate, Mr. Fauntroy had only write-in opposition, and though his choice for chairman, Mr. Dixon, won handily, his choice for mayor, Mr. Tucker, appears not to have won at all. Then there was "organized labor," usually taken to mean the Greater Washington Central Labor Council - and not the various union leaders who may or may not pay attention to the council's endorsements - which put people and money behind Mr. Washington and Mr. Moore.
Significantly, some of the old assumptions about race and politics didn't hold up, either. Mrs. Kane won her third citywide election. If Ward III (the political phrase for white voters) went for Mr. Barry, so did many voters in predominantly black wards. In other contests, candidates who attempted to prey upon racial divisions did not fare at all well.
Still, if one is looking for a "mandate" in the results, one sure thing can be said about the mayoral race: There was a strong desire for something different, for two-thirds of the voters rejected Mayor Washington's bid for reelection. The movers and shakers who produced that result and all the other returns were not special-interest groups. The voters demonstrated an admirable capacity to choose for themselves.
HOW DID Harry Hughes do it? There will be lots of intricate analyses of his stunning victory in Maryland's Democratic gubernatorial primary. One will hear about the stumbling by the frontrunners, Acting Gov. Blair Lee III and Baltimore County Executive Ted Venetoulis; the Baltimore Sunpapers' drumbeating for Mr. Hughes; and the winner's own modest demeanor and dogged campaign against the organizations and the odds. The basic explanation may be a very simple one: Maryland Democrats wanted a change - and the more they looked at the choices, the more they liked Mr. Hughes.
Mr. Hughes seemed to come from nowhere. His triumph as a champion of change is doubly surprising when you consider where he actually came from. He is a native of the Eastern Shore, the most tradition-minded sector of the state. After 16 years in the legislature, he was tapped by Gov. Marvin Mandel to head the state party organization, and then to run the state transportation department. That suggests a certain party regularity. After Mr. Hughes resigned his post in protest against some contract shenanigans by the Mandel-Lee administration, he joined a prominent Baltimore law firm. Finally, he won this week by carrying the Baltimore area and most of the Eastern Shore.
What makes Mr. Hughes so distinctive is that he has managed to amass a solid record of state governmental service without being tarred by the cronyism and corruption that have been so rife in Maryland. He couples integrity with capability. He is well versed in the intricacies of state finance. Besides overhauling the transportation department's contracting procedures, he expanded that agency from a roadbuilding bureau into a vigorous promoter of many forms of transit - including Metro and commuter trains.
Thus Maryland Democrats are moving into a new era in more than one respect. Mr. Hughes's victory is a rejection of what he calls "big money" and "big machines." The same public desire for unbossed government produced the landslide vote for attorney general nominee Stephen Sachs, the former federal prosecutor who broke with state tradition by campaigning independently and who promises to transform the state legal office into an aggressive public-advocacy force. Where Mr. Sachs emphasizes vigor and freshness, Mr. Hughes has a calmer style and stresses experience as much as innovation. He appeals to both the public desire for reform and the mood of fiscal retrenchment that is as notable in Maryland as elsewhere right now.
All this must be discouraging to Maryland's struggling Republicans. They have nominated former U.S. senator J. Glenn Beall Jr., a sturdy moderate who is well known and well regarded. The GOP had hoped to capitalize on the Democrats' scandals and rivalries, plus the current government-trimming mood. Now they are up against Mr. Hughes and a majority party that seems to be surviving the upset without splintering.
All this is good news for Maryland as a whole. The fall campaign can now be focused on the future - on each candidate's specific programs and particularly on how each would deal with the state's fiscal and economic needs - rather than on who may have been tarred by what suspect associations in one or another sordid episode of the Mandel/Agnew days. The primary results virtually ensure that, no matter who wins in November, Maryland politics and government are going to be different - and, we think, vastly improved.