Vowing "to throw the rascals out," Adlai Stevenson III announced his candidacy for governor yesterday in hopes of avenging his 1982 loss in the closest gubernatorial race in Illinois history.

He will face Attorney General Neil Hartigan in the March Democratic primary. The winner will face three-term Republican Gov. James R. Thompson.

At his first campaign stop, at Oak Park-River Forest High School, Stevenson vowed to "clean up the mess" and make Illinois government "a force for progress" again.

In the 1982 governor's race, Thompson edged Stevenson by 0.139 percent -- 5,074 votes out of more than 3.6 million cast.

Hartigan has been running hard since announcing his candidacy in early September and has said he would not withdraw if Stevenson entered the race.

Stevenson and Thompson already have been trading political jabs, starting where they left off in 1982. Stevenson has vowed to wage a tougher campaign than in 1982, when his political style became an issue and he accused the governor of trying to brand him a wimp.

Stevenson, a former U.S. senator, is a son of the late Adlai E. Stevenson II, who was Illinois governor, U.N. ambassador and twice Democratic presidential nominee in the 1950s.