A vote for Republican John N. Dalton is "a vote for higher utility rates," Democratic gubernatorial nominee Henry E. Howell charged yesterday.

Howell said in the text of a speech prepared for delivery that electric rates will go up if Dalton is elected because he has "close ties to the Virginia Electric and Power Co."

This is a familiar Howell theme, but one he is hitting with particular intensity as the Nov. 8 election draws near. Yesterday's claim was unusually direct, as Howell usually refers to his opponent as "my friend" or Johnny."

Meanwhile, in Williamsburg, Dalton called on Virginias private health industry to take the lead in finding ways to reduce the skyrocking cost of medical care.

"Something must be done to control these costs," Dalton told some 600 members of the Virginia Hospital Association at their annual meeting ". . . but there's a limit to what state government can do . . .

"If increased federal regulation is to be avoided in this country it must be up to the health care providers and the private sector to come up with workable solutions to this problem," Dalton said.

"I know the federal government is hard at work in an effort to control health costs," Dalton said. "I understand that (the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare) has published national guidelines covering the number of beds per 1,000 people and other areas . . .

"Frankly, whenever I see the federal government involved in planning I get concerned . . . While I believe coordination and planning are important to control health costs, I am also concerned that where quotas are involved, individuals' needs are overlooked and some recommendations in the name of economy may lead to a rationing of services or a reduction in the quality of health care."

The Republican nominee spoke during a day of campaigning that took him from a morning high school assembly near Yorktown on the Virginia peninsula to meetings last night in Northern Virginia. And at each stop he sought, as he has increasingly in recent days, to picture himself as a candidate to whom the concept of problem-solving is more important than ideology or party.

"I've been talking a great deal about problem solving in this campaign," Dalton told the hospital Association, "and about people and government working in partnership to solve problems.

"Government has neither the resources nor the ability to solve all of our problems . . . but government can serve as a partner and that's what I have been talking about in this campaign."

Howell's remarks, about utility rates, scheduled to be given at a reception in Loudoun County, came the day after the Democrat released a voluminous analysis of Dalton's contributions that showed 151 of his contributors are either bank directors, or members of investment firms, Vepco's law firm or Vepco's board. Dalton has reported contributions and loans of $1.2 million from about 14,000 contributors.

Howell spoke mostly to partisan groups yesterday returning again and again to the claim that the Republicans have helped create and perpetuate the estrangement between Northern Virginia and the rest of the state. Quoting a 1975 speech by Republican Gov. Mills E. Godwin, Howell said that the Republicans have tried to "divide and control this state by proclaiming an "unbridgeable gulf" between the populous Tidewater, and Northern Virginia regions and the rest of the state."

Howell also said that he would "give very serious consideration to a proposal" to give Northern Virginia more representatives on the state's Highway Commission. Northern Virginia's two congressional districts have one reresentative on the 11-member commission, he said, and should perhaps have two.

This area is considered crucial to both candidates and each has concentrated money and effort toward wooing voters here. In the waning days of his campaign, Howell is also spending a great deal of time, as he did yesterday, giving pep talks to his committed supporters, shoring up his support and exhorting them to get to the polls.

"Forces are being generated to stop Henry Howell because I believe government is for all people and not just special interests . . . when you begin to step on those economic toes you're going to have a lot of pressure brought to bear to prevent you from getting elected."