For a certain segment of Arlington County's politically influential population, it is sometimes hard to tell where politics ends and social life begins.

"It's like the elite in a small town," said ABC member who declined to be identified. "You always see the same names cropping up. These people go to the same parties, manage each other's campaigns and appoint each other to various committees."

In addition to the annual ABC spring banquet, the sponsors list of which reads like a local "Who's Who," the other significant regularly scheduled social events are the New Year's Day open house held at the home of Rep. Joseph L. Fisher and the Book and Art Fair held in September at the Rock Spring Congregational Church.

The former started in 1971 when Fisher, a former county board chairman, gave a party celebrating Joe Wholey's election to the county board. At the Rock Spring Fair "we all sell each other the same used books year after year," said Everard Munsey.

"It is not a clique," said Val Kitchens, ABC membership chairman whose husband, Allen, is a former ABC chairman and one of four candidates seeking the ABC-Democratic nomination for Joseph Wholey's seat. "A lot of our socializing is connected with campaigning."

"There is a lot of socializing," said Munsey, ammused by the concept of a social "A List" in Arlington County. "We have strong well-financed campaigns and one of the reasons is that people know each other well and are used to working together and eating together. We have these endless fundraising pasta dinners. It's a pleasant evening with people you like."

"I socialize very little with other ABCers," said David Anderson, who also is seeking the coalition's endorsement for Wholey's seat. "I've become good friends with (county board chairman) John Purdy, but I think it's natural that people who work together politically form friendships. That's not unusual."

Some Republicans are fond of talking about the intertwining of social and political life in Arlington.

"The Republicans are not as excited as these people about continual political activity," said conservative County Board member Walter Frankland. "They have other interests, like going out and making a living, and for some reason they don't enjoy meeting week after week with the same people. For the ABCer's these meetings and get togethers are their social life. Why, it's close to being a religion."

"In many ways Arlington is a small town," said school board member Ann. Broder, also a long-time ABC member. "These events give people who are new or without other social contacts outlets for congeniality. But I've seen people go over a precinct list methodically and you'd think they were at a (church) quilting bee. They know births, deaths, marriages and divorces."