SOME WASHINGTON voters may have thought it confusing back when their D.C. Council had two quite different Moores--Jerry and Douglas--on the ballots all the time, but eventually, Jerry outlasted Douglas, leaving one less thing for the elections process to mess up. But in Baltimore--where, unlike in this city, local politics has a real history and the candidates don't hesitate to get down and dirty--the name game is an old if not venerated form of electoral monkey wrench. Candidates with similar names try to pirate votes and confuse the electorate; this time the name is Murphy, and the game is Family Feud.

The stakes are not minute, either. In this Murphy surfeit for the local primaries are two who are running in the mayor's race, either alongside or against incumbent William Donald Schaefer. One is William H. Murphy Jr., who has been running for a while now; the other is Delphia Murphy, who showed up 15 minutes before the filing deadline this week and only hours after William's mother, Madeline, filed under the wire to run for the South Baltimore city council seat held and still wanted by Tim Murphy, who--are you ready?--is Delphia's son.

Now you better believe that several political analysts (or were they family counselors?) have been speculating that Madeline filed to siphon votes from Tim, which annoyed Tim's mother enough to send her down to file in the mayor's race. Still, all involved are saying with straight faces and forked tongues in cheeks that their political pursuits are genuine and have nothing to do with any mischief or revenge.

Far be it from us to harbor any doubts about the seriousness of each bid. Surely it's coincidence, just as are the other races that include Mary Pat Clarke and John D. Clark for council president, or Earl Gallagher and Frank Gallagher for another council seat.

The last laugh, if any humor is left by September, may be that of the voter, whose gullibility just might be vastly overrated. After all, isn't that Murphy's Law?