Barbara Weiss, one of six political newcomers running in the Democratic primary for the House of Delegates from the 18th District, glanced over the group of 10 women who gathered for an early morning coffee and said, "This is a difficult race for people to get a handle on what's happening."
All the candidates agree that the primary race may be confusing to the average voter because there are 10 Democrats - two of them incumbents - running for the party nomination for five delegate seats from northern Fairfax County, Fairfax City and Falls Church. Six of the 10 Democratic candidates are from Reston.
In addition, the local candidates said, the primary races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general make it more difficult for those in the delegate race to gain name recognition among the voters.
The candidates are further hampered by the fact that the 18th District covers 200 square miles - a large area for campaigning, they said.
So, like the seven Republicans running in their party's primary, the 10 Democrats are knocking on doors, handing out literature, telephoning and attending meetings and social gatherings in an effort to get their friends and potential supporters to go out and vote for them on June 14.
In their campaigns, the Democratic candidates rarely treat each other as opponents ("They're all great guys," says incumbent Raymond E. Vickery Jr.), though five of them will lose.
The candidates, especially incumbents Vickery and Dorothy S. McDiarmid, tout their background and experience, rather than attack each other on issues.
"My job on the approrprations committee (in the House) is the biggest plus for my area," McDiarmid, a seven-term House member, proclaims as she cites such legislative achievements as increasing educational funding for Northern Virginia.
McDiarmid and two-term House member Vickery said their experience is needed to represent the 18th District in which two other incumbent have decided against running. Democrat Del. Carrington Williams plans to run for the U.S. Senate next year and Republican Del. Wyatt B. Durrette Jr. is running this year for attorney general.
Two of the contenders have run for the House before - Kenneth R. Plum, a two-time loser, and Lauretta Newport, who ran unsuccessfully in the 1974 primary. Newport and Plum live in Reston.
McDiarmid, Vickery, Plum and Newport have appeared at several social gatherings together and some party observers consider them to be the frontrunners.
The 18th District race also includes a retired Episcopal priest, Embry Cobb Rucker; a former Catholic priest, John D. Scalamonti; a city planner, Richard M. Riemer; a bookkeeper for a law firm, Gary P. Eklund, and a woman who lists her occupation as politician, Karetta Browning Hubbard.
A look at the candidates in the Democratic primary:
Gary P. Eklund - Edlund 31, lives in Falls Church and is the only Democratic candidate from outside Fairfax's Centreville District.
Edlund says he wants to represent "the average citizen" who, he says, currently "lacks service" in the Virginia General Assembly.
His main campaign issues include providing funds for more parks and recreation areas, enacting legislation that would allow pari-mutuel racing and a state lottery to raise state revenues and a special health insurance plan for cancer victims.
Eklund said he plans to spend $1,300 on his campaign, which has included knocking on doors ("I went to 300 houses on a recent Saturday," he said.), leafletting and attending meetings.
Karetta Browning Hubbard - Hubbard, 32, who lists her occupation as a politician, though she has never run for public office before now, worked in the Northern Virginia campaign for President Carter.
Hubbard, the former creator-producer-moderator of a Reston cable television show concerning women's issues, said, "Northern Virginians certainly feel alienated from the rest of the state." She said if elected she plans to work to change that feeling by enacting legislation that will provide more services for Northern Virginia!
Hubbard, who estimates she will spend $2,700 on her primary campaign, said her main objectives in the upcoming session include a government reorganization plan, collective bargaining with a no strike provision and ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
Dorothy S. McDiarmid - McDiarmid, who refuses to give her age, lives in Vienna. SHe led the balloting in the last election and is popular in the General Assembly. She has been most influential in the areas of child care and education.
A tireless advocate of ERA, McDiarmid is campaigning on the issues of tax relief for the elderly and retirees on fixed incomes, an improved mental, physical and comprehensive local health care and restoring trust in the government.
She said she doesn't know how much she will spend on her campaign in the primary.
Lauretta B. Newport - Newport, 38, is the only black in the race.
Newport said her main concerns are home health care for the elderly and those seriously ill, increased funding for programs for the handicapped, tax relief for those on fixed incomes and increasing the membership of the State Corporation Commission from three to five members.
A former president of the Fairfax County YWCA, Newport has worked as a congressional assistant for five years on Capitol Hill, as a legislative lobbyist for better housing in New York, and as a worker for mental health improved programs for the handicapped.
She said she plans to spend $2,500 on her primary campaign, which includes passing out a letter-sized brochure. "They were left over from the last campaign (1974)," she said.
Kenneth R. Plum - Plum, 35, a Fairfax County school administrator, was defeated in the 1973 and 1975 delegate races.
His main campaign issues include developing alternative ways to deal with juvenile delinquency and working for more local control of government. ("Northern Virginia is strapped by the state Assembly," he said at a recent wine and cheese party.)
A native Virginia, Plum has been active in state politics, working to unseat the Byrd machine while he was a student at Old Dominion University in Norfolk in the early 1960s and working to abolish the poll tax when he later lived in the Charlottesville area.
He said he plans to spend $1,500 on his campaign.
Richard M. Riemer - Riemer, 30, a former president of Reston Commuter Bus Inc., said he decided to run for the House seat because he wants to change the bureaucracy with which Northern Virginians currently deal.
A former policy planner with the U.S. Department of Transportation and a former chief transportation planner for the city of Indianapolis, Ind., Riemer is campaigning on themes of proven community leadership and professional skills. His main concerns include developing a state energy plan, improving the Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation and reconstructing the Metro board in an effort to make Metro responsive to Northern Virginia.
Riemer, who said he plans to spend $4,000 on his campaign, said, "I find it more effective to go out door-to-door campaigning."
Embry Cobb Rucker - Rucker, 62, said he is running for public office because "I'm convinced that a whole lot more good can be accomplished through politics."
Rucker, who ran parishes in Alexandria and Reston and who worked in D.C. Del. Walter Fauntroy's office for eight months, said his main concerns are improving the quality of education, attracting more businesses to Virginia, and improving mental health care and public transportation for Northern Virginia, which includes completion of Metro "as fast as we can."
Rucker, a management consultant, said he plans to spend $3,000 on his campaign which includes mailing campaign literature. "I haven't gotten the courage to walk up to strangers to introduce myself yet," he said.
John D. Scalamonti - Scalamonti, 36, said he is running because he thinks the delegates "can do a lot more than what they've done in the past. I feel I have the qualifications to work for the people."
The former Catholic priest said he has worked with drug addicts and the poor.
Currently a training manager with the Gino's fast food chain, Scalamonti said he is concerned with the problems of the elderly and the youth. He said if elected he plans to set up a local delegate office to provide better service to the people.
A member of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce, the Reston resident said he will spend $2,000 on his campaign.
Raymond E. Vickery Jr. - Vickery, 35, an attorney, lives in Vienna.
Vickery, who announces at campaign stops that he introduced 23 bills in the past session, said he tries to be the people's delegate. "There is a terrific pressure to conform to the Virginia way (in the Assembly). But, I don't think they (the people) want to sit back and do nothing," said Vickery, whose style of politics has irked many state delegates.
He said he is outspoken on issues such as taxes and utility rates (should be lowered), education (should be improved), and mental health and criminal justice system (must be improved).
The Fulbright scholar and Harvard Law School graduate said he plans to spend more than $1,200 on his campaign.
Barbara W. Weiss - Weiss, 45, citizen activist, lives in Vienna.
If elected, Weiss said, she will be "a consumer advocate, seeking an equitable return in goods and services for each tax dollar we send to Richmond."
Weiss said she is concerned with improving health care, helping the elderly with their needs and providing employment opportunities with special emphasis on employment and training youth.
A strong advocate of child care, Weiss said she will spend $1,700 on her campaign.