The $45,000-a-year job of Virginia attorney general has attracted four candidates for the Democratic nomination, three of them members of the House of Delegates.

The influence of the attorney general has grown in recent years as increasing federal regulations and state government needs have created more work for the office. In addition, the attorney general can take an aggressively activist role in antitrust suits and consumer representation.

Under former Attorney General Andrew P. Miller, who resigned in January, the office grew to 126 employees - 85 of them lawyers. The budget for the attorney general's office is $1.5 million annually.

The candidates for the job, in alphabetical order are:

Edward E. Lane, 53 a member of the House since 1952 representing Richmond, was chairman there of the Corporations, Insurance and Banking Committee and is chairman of the Appropriations Committee. He has also been chairman of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission and the Virginia Advisory Legislative Council.

Born in Richmond, Lane graduated from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and the University of Richmond law school. He is the senior partner in the law firm of Edward E. Lane and Associates.

As attorney general, Lane has aid that he would work for a crackdown on white collar and organized crime, a program to assist witnesses in criminal trials, upgraded services for victims of sex crimes and the establishment of an Emergency Services Team in the attorney general's office to help victims of natural disasters get state and federal aid.

Lane said he would also work with local officials to place more emphasis on dealing with child abuse and would establish a "People's Division" to function as a mediator of grievances between citizens and state and local governments. He also promised to establish a toll-free telephone hot-line to the attorney general's office.

Lane has also called for improved auditing of state agency budgets and a study of "sunset and zero-based budgeting concepts."

John L. Melnick, 42, an attorney in Arlington who has been a member of the House since 1972. He was an assistant commonwealth's attorney in Arlington for two years and was a member of the police trial board. He has also served on the state crime commission.

Melnick was born in Alexandria and graduated from Roanoke College and the University of Virginia law school.

As attorney general, Melnick said he would create a division called the Office of Consumer Counsel, would hire experts to aid consumers fighting utility rate increases, would work to eliminate the fuel adjustment clause on utility bills and would aggressively enforce the state's antitrust act.

He has also called for the creation of an enforcement unit specifically directed at drug traffic and for separating "hardened" criminals from first offenders in prison. He has also said he would fight against the "corrosive effects of the big oil monopoly" and for Virginia approval of the Equal Rights Amendment.

John T. Schell, 31, an attorney from McLean on leave from the Washington firm of Peabody, Rivlin, Lambert and Meyers.

Born in Birmingham, Ala., Schell graduated from Auburn University and the University of Virginia Law School. He has been a member of the state central committee of the Democratic Party and a precinct worker.

Schell has represented the Virginia Citizens Consumer Council and helped found the Consumer Congress of Virginia. He has specialized in utility cases. Schell co-ordinated George Rawlings' unsuccessful senatorial campaign in 1970, and has helped write an article for the William and Mary Law Review on how the State Corporation Commission makes public in setting utility rates.

He said he sees the role of attorney general as being "the people's lawyer." He rates as priorities "reasonable utility rates, an effective and efficient criminal justice system and a decent environment."

He has also called for "readable" insurance policies; equal employment opportunities; the elmination of the fuel adjustment clause, of charges for telephone directory assistance and of the 20-cent phone call, and increased access for the public to state agency decision-making. He also said that the implementation of an energy policy is a top priority.

Erwin S. (Shad) Solomon, 53, an attorney from Bath County who has been a member of the House since 1975. Before that he was elected Bath commonwealth's attorney three times.

Born in Bell Harbor, Md., Solomon graduated from Emory and Henry College in Virginia, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Virginia law school. He was a member of the State Crime Commission for 10 years and is the author of several legal works.

As attorney general, Solomon said he would work for a system of mobile crime laboratories, the establishment of an office to deal solely with state employee grievances and would use the antitrust division to "crack down on price fixing."

Solomon said he would also work for equal opportunity in education and to abolish the fuel adjustment clause. He said he is also concerned about the state's prison system and would work to improve it.