If California is the pace-setter, as Proposition 13 gives some indication, what happened here in this strange campaign is reason for sober reflection. On the ballot is Proposition 6, which is intended to root any slightest suspicion of homosexuality out of the public school system.

It calls for firing any teacher for "advocation, soliciting, imposing, encouraging or promoting private or public sexual acts" between individuals of the same sex. That is an invitation to blackmail, as newspapers throught the state have almost university said in opposing Proposition 6. Even Ronald Reagan who would normally be an ally of state Sen. John Briggs, sponsor of Proposition 6, came out against it.

The campaign for governor descended to that same level. The Republican candidate. Attorney General Evelle T Younger, said that Gov. Jerry Brown is "strange," a disciple of Zen Buddhism who relies on meditation rather than research to solve state issues.

That seemed to be an attempt to exploit the whispering campaign that has persisted since Brown first fan for governor four years ago, which says that Brown, 40 years old and unmarried, is a latent, if not actual, homosexual. That kind of vicious undercover rumor is impossible to refute, and Brown chose to ignore it, going about his own way of life.

Speaking to the San Diego Political Writers Association, Younger described himself as un-strange, a usual man, proud of his home, his dog, his Episcopalian religion. Earlier, before San Jose Republicans, he had initiated the strange attack on the governor's lifestyle.

A bit of desperation may have been behind that outburst. The latest Los Angeles Times poll shows Younger 23 points behind Brown. From the outset he had trailed the governor anywhere from 12 to 15 points.

Brown retorted he found it odd that Younger should offer himself on a platform of being un-strange. He is getting tired, Brown said, and saying whatever comes into his mind. I don't think he's functioning very well, said Brown.

That the campaign should have sunk to this level is a sad reflection on the times. Both in the nation and in the state, so much hangs in the balance. Here it is public transportation as one remedy for the use of the private car on the high-speed freeways, busing, crime and the rapidly growing Hispanic minority, which will soon be the largest minority in this diversifiedstate.

In recent years, the gays have made themselves a highly articulate minority. San Francisco, they boast, is the gay capital, with -at a guess - 10 percent of the adult population on the gay side. The sponsor of Proposition 6 choose to confront the gays at their Halloween revels on San Francisco's Polk Street. Although Briggs was surrounded by police and his own bodyguards, it turned out to be a meek confrontation.

In the gays and anti-gays and the crusade of Anita Bryant of Florida orange juice, who draws demonstration wherever she speaks there is lively copy. The readership is presumably far greater than it is for a serious discussion of the issues. That was the reality confronting candidates for office notably in the empire of the West.

This sprawling city of five or six million souls is without a core, without a center, lacking any semblance of cohesion. Getting the attention of the voter, aside from a few highly organised special- interest groups, is difficult, if not impossible. With inflation biting ever deeper, it is the pocketbook issue - as Proposition 13 demonstrated - that grabs them.

Icreasingly, television is the resort of candidate who can pay for it, and the cost is high. Television supposedly provides a captive audience for the clever political commercials of expert ad men skilled in the psychology of the indifferent or reluctant voter. The nearest thing to a Brown - Younger exchange came in the televised debates initiated by the League of Women Voters.

Extraneous matters generated some heat. One was the governor's appointment of Rose Bird as justice of the state supreme court. With no previous judical experience, she has been attacked from the right for being soft on crime. The choices he made for members of the board of regents of the university have been ridiculed and criticized.

Those are, however, minor when compared to the kind of political appeal that Brown seems able to generate. That is the reason he is virtually certain term as governor of this, the most populous state in the union. And one reason may be the fact he is so different from the familiar politician of the past.