There are 40 candidates running for 19 seats in the Virginia General Assembly from six Northern Virginia districts and together they comprise a group as diverse as the region they're trying to represent in Richmond.
There is, for instance, a candidate who hitchhikes to all his political functions because he can't afford a car. There are candidates who were still in diapers when other candidates were sworn into their first terms as delegates. There are housewives and lawyers, school-teachers and college students, grocery store clerks and real estate agents, all running for a job that will give them more grief than financial gain.
Some of them had their candidacies ignited by a cause - utility bills, for instance, or the Equal Rights Amendment - while others were hatched in one of the traditional incubators of suburban political ambition - PTAS and neighborhood civic associations.
As a group, they cover the political spectrum from end to end and the countryside with campaign literature. They stalk voters and try to avoid the oblivion in which the statewide races tend to cover them.
All of them are trying to win an election, but the low pay ($5,400) and part-time mature of the job they seek maintains their amateur status, keeping them more akin to their next-door neighbors than to media-slick politicians.
For most of the candidates, politics is a home-grown affair, where a spare room is converted into a campaign base and the back seas of the station wagon is stacked high with freshly printed leaflets and press releases. There are no bustling entourages of aides and flunkies to keep the press at bay, no media consultants to help the candidate fashion the perfect handshake to accompany the diamond hard grin.
Instead, the staff often consists of a husband, a good friend or, as in the case of Thomas Jefferson Rothrock, as wife. "It's nothing fancy," said Rothrock, a three-term Democratic incumbent, "but we get the job done."
[TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] the dyamatic differences in styles, issues and points of view, remains, for the most part within a well-worn groove of door-to-door campaigning, targeted mailouts and neighborhood candidates's nights.
Michael Leahy departs from the mainstream by hitchhiking to his campaign appearances. He was born in 1955, the year Del. James M. Thomson (D-Alexandria) entered the Virginia legislature. Gladys Keating was inspired by the issue of utility bills and Elise B. Heinz by the issue of the ERA.
Few of the candidates go to the same lengths as Richard L. Saslaw, like Rothrock, an incumbent Democrat from southern Fairfax County's 19th District, who takes off two months from his real estate job to campaign for his delegate's seat and who estimates that he will have knocked on 4,500 doors by election day.
Many of them, however, would probably sympathize with one candidate, who knew too well the endless round of candidates nights sponsored by local civic associations and lasting sometimes from dinner to early morning.
"You go crazy after a while," he said. "You go to these things night after night wearing the same suit and saying the same things and sometimes all you've got listening to you are two old ladies and a dog. Sometimes I just get this impulse to make a face or do a softshoe or do anything to break out of the mold."
Some of the imagination this political season in the suburbs has seemed to come from devising ways to raise money.
Most candidates expect their campaigns to cost between $5,000 and $10,000 although the extremes range from Lawrence D. Pratt, a Republican contender from the 19th District who planned to raise $27,850, to Democrat Vernon L. Stranz, a 23-year-old George Mason University student who has used the flip side of discarded "Herd Harris for Congress" posters to remind voters to vote for him. Strang is also running for one of five seats in the 19th District.
Not even $5,000 comes easy these days, however, and many of the candidates necessarily resorted to the time-honored technique of the fund-raiser to keep them in carbon paper and mimeograph machines.
Some Democrats took the athletic approach. Barbare Weiss, making her first try for an 18th District seat, played tennis with Rep. Joseph I. Fisher (D-Va.) while two-two term incumbent Ramond E. Vickery Jr. jogged and Strang staged a bike-a-thon.
Several Republicans, meanwhile, brought out Elizabeth Taylor Warner to woo the dollars from their billfolds, including Tom Shafran, who is running against Democrat Elise Heinz for the Arlington-Alexandria floater seat.
Heinz, on the other hand, like a number of candidates of both persuasions, looked about for a politically appropriate member of Congress to lend glamour to her fund-raiser, and settled on Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.).
The issues among the thicket of office seekers have remained more or less standard for Northern Virginia - many Democrats stress the need for local autonomy, state aid to Metro and increased social services, while Republicans often emphasize the need for greater controls on spending and taxation.
Most of the candidates, however, have other more specific stands as well, some of them controversial, others more idiosyncratic. In Alexandria, for instance, Republican Gary Myers, a 33-year-old attorney, has emphasized his opponent James M. Thomson's opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment, while the Democrat Thomson, a 22-year veteran of the House of Delegates and majority leader since 1968, stresses his seniority.
Democrats and Republicans in this crowded field seem to have differing points of view on the importance of party unity this fall.
In the 20th District, comprised of Prince William and Loudoun counties, the three Democratic incumbents - Floyd C. Bagley, Earl H. Bell, and David G. Brickley - are running as "the three B's."
In the 19th District, however, the Republicans attack not only Democrats but each other as well. It was Robert I. Thonurn, who opposes collective bargaining, abortion and the ERA, was attacking fellow Republican Lawrence D. Pratt, who opposes air bags in cars because terrorists might use the air bag ingredients to make explosives, because Pratt was not acting conservative enough.
Thoburn's position on rape and abortion has irritated many Fairfax County residents, especially women. At a recent candidate's forum, Thoburn said an unmarried woman who is raped should marry her attacker. The rapist of a married woman should be executed, he said.
The owner of a private Christian school, Thoburn said a woman who has an abortion should be guilty of a capital offense.
Thoburn, who has a picture of a small child on his campaign poster with the caption "For his future . . . Bob Thoburn for the House of Delegates," said he believes life begins at conception.
In the 22nd District, Republican George M. Joseph takes pride in the number of questionaires he has answered - 37 questionaires totaling 383 questions.