For the last five months, Kevin Igoe, an amiable former federal worker running against Democratic Rep. Gladys Spellman, has found his campaign effort held back by his status as a newcomer, both to politics and to the country.

His dilemma is typified by a story that has been making the rounds in the Fifth Congressional District, one of many that have caused the country's politicians, Republicans among them, to shake their heads in wonder, and has allowed Spellman to dismiss his nomination by the Republicans as "demeaning to Congress."

According to the much-told tale, Igoe, who moved to the county six years ago, made one of his first and most vigorous campaign appearances after his primary success at a parade in the southern part of Prince George's. He spent the good part of an hour shaking hands and boosting his candidacy until it was firmly pointed out to him -- by a Democrat, no less - that the locale of the parade was the Fourth, not the Fifth Congressional District where he was running for election.

Igoe now says he knew that the parade was not in his district but decided to attend anyway, but he concedes that the story, much like his entire campaign effort, indicatesto many voters that his candidacy does not post a serious threat to Spellman even as the immensely popular, three-term incumbent lies unconscious in a county hospital, struggling to survive a massive heart attack that hit her late Friday.

While Spellman is expected to win big Tuesday, no matter what her medical condition, her hospitalization in critical condition has focused new attention on Igoe as people wonder whether the Spellman era -- 18 years of politics in the county -- may come to an end.

Igoe, 30, is a slight, soft-spoken former budget analyst for the Treasury Department whose name frequently slips the mind -- if it ever registered there -- of county voters and politicians.

He has never run for office before but was able to defeat of field of two opponents, one of whom campaigned on the platform of returning the District of Columbia to Maryland and persuading scientists to revive dead persons who had been frozen to preserve them.

According to members of the Republican Central Committee, Igoe was felt to be the only viable candidate for the party. "There aren't too many people out there willing to commit suicide by running against Gladys," one said recently.

There are many in the county who feel Igoe never expected to seriously contest SpellmanS candidacy, but was interested in using the campaign visibility to give himself a head start on a race for county council or the state legislature. In recent years, no Republicans have been able to win election to those local seats.

Igoe, however, has said that he has wanted to be in Congress for years and simply felt compelled to quit his federal job and run this time because of Spellman's "liberal" record, which he says is out of touch with the country, and because of a need to make Congress more responsive to an increasingly conservative electorate.

He has campaigned in support of the Kemp-Roth tax cut proposals, an immediately balanced federal budget, increased defense spending and in support of the Republican platform, except where it opposes the Equal Rights Amendment. He says Spellman is good at providing constituent services -- one of her trademarks, in fact -- but lacks the leadership necessary to guide Congress or the county.

Despite claims by many of his opponents, and even some Republicans, that his political knowledge emanates solely from political science text books, Igoe says he has gained his insights by working for two years in the Treasury Department and two years in the Department of Defense. Before that, he was in the Army Reserve and lived in Rochester, N.Y. where he worked as a telephone operator for the New York Telephone Co.