Far below the political radar in this mayoral primary season is the race for sheriff, pitting Sheriff John Green, the five-term incumbent, against attorney Michael W. Untermeyer, a political novice, for the Democratic nomination.

Unlike the mayoral candidates who are issuing position papers almost daily, Green and Untermeyer have skipped such preliminaries and gone directly for the jugular.

Green says that Untermeyer tried to shake him down for a job, and accuses Untermeyer of offering to abort his campaign if Green named him to the now-vacant undersheriff position, which pays $36,000 a year.

"I thought he was either crazy or was setting me up for something," Green said yesterday. "I just ignored him."

Untermeyer says Green has it backward.

"He discussed the idea of me not running and maybe having a position in his office," Untermeyer said.

He said that by the time he met with Green in late fall, his campaign was in full swing.

"Yes, I did meet with him. I was invited to meet with him and I had all these issues regarding the office and I was invited to come talk about the issues," Untermeyer said.

Untermeyer also is a real-estate developer who has donated $100,000 to his own campaign and has given up a position as a hearing examiner for the state Liquor Control Board to make his first run for office.

He's served as special counsel to the office of inspector general, and worked for a decade in the state attorney general's office and earlier as an assistant district attorney.

Green also said that he was "concerned" with Untermeyer's residency, questioning whether he lives in the city. Untermeyer said he has lived in Philadelphia for about 30 years, now at Pier 5 on North Columbus Boulevard.

The challenger said that Green's accusations should not obscure the real issues in the race - a lack of professionalism and competence in the sheriff's office that has been recounted in the last decade by numerous city controller reports. Untermeyer also questions Green's use of no-bid professional-service contracts.

Both candidates have run into campaign-contribution issues that will come under the scrutiny of the city's new Ethics Board.

For Green, the issue is a $23,500 contribution from the Laborers District Council Political Action Committee Fund last June.

The city's campaign-contribution law, now being contested in court, limits contributions to a candidate from a business or political action committee to $10,000 per year and individual contributions to $2,500 per year.

Untermeyer received a $25,000 contribution from William and Jan Isenberg on the day of his campaign announcement last August. William Isenberg is a real- estate developer with whom Untermeyer has done business.

Untermeyer also received a $10,000 contribution from Michele Frank, of Newtown Square, and $5,000 from George W. Moore, a lawyer at Morgan Lewis & Bockius.

"I now understand that some of these contributions are in dispute. I will do whatever the law requires," Untermeyer said.

J. Shane Creamer Jr., interim executive director of the city Ethics Board, said the board will review the contributions and decide what enforcement action to take. *