When the Virginia House of Delegates convenes early next year, Prince William County Republicans hope to see three new GOP members taking their oaths as delegates from the newly created three-member 23rd District.
Whether that hope can become a reality remains to be seen, but for the first time in six years, the House contest in Prince William has generated so much interest among county Republicans that the party is holding a primary.
Four Republicans will be on the primary ballot Sept. 8, seeking the party nomination for three spots on the general election ballot. A fifth Republican, Lori Collier, was forced to bow out when her nominating petitions came up 13 signatures short of the 250 needed to get on the ballot.
Long-time political observers in Prince William question whether, given the traditional east-west split in the county, Republicans can overcome the Democrats this fall to represent the new district, which includes the entire county.
The bulk of the county's 166,660 residents in rapidly growing Prince William live in the eastern part of the county, centered on Dale City. That area, populated by young families who are generally considered to be moderate to liberal, has traditionally supported Democrats.
The more conservative and more Republican western end of the county, around Manassas Park and Haymarket, is less developed and less populous.
But county Republicans, bolstered by what they see as a national trend to more conservative politics and a sense that county residents are unhappy with the current Democratic delegation to the General Assembly, are confident that this is the year the Democrats can be beaten.
"The complexion (of Prince William politics) is changing," says Peter W. Steketee, chairman of the county Republican Committee. "Slowly we're coming into our own, and we have reason to be optimistic (this fall)."
But before Republicans square off against Democrats in the general election, set for Nov. 3, they must complete the primary hurdle.
The four Republican candidates seeking party nominations for the three spots on the general election ballot -- Bill Becker, Harry Parrish, Jack Rollison and Smith Young -- agree that several issues must be addressed by the legislators who go to Richmond in January.
For example, they note, the antiquated transportation system in the sprawling suburban county badly needs overhauling, but plans have been delayed while state highway funds have been funneled into rural areas.
The Reagan administration, they add, needs fiscally responsible legislators to help it implement its many budgetary reforms, particularly when the burden of financing many federal educational and social welfare programs is shifting to the states.
"We need to get government closer to the people," said William J. Becker, 62, a retired Air Force colonel who works for a marketing research firm in Rockville. "One way to do that is through initiative and referendum -- giving the people a chance to get a law initiated or to have an impact on a law already passed that they might not agree with."
Becker, who has lived in Manassas 27 years, also supports a reduction in the state sales tax on food and nonprescription drugs, contending the taxes are a hardship, particularly on the elderly. A proposal that would have cut the sales taxes in half was defeated in the last session of the General Assembly.
Crime is another major problem, said Becker, who advocates "uniform and certain sentencing laws" that would bar early releases and increase financial penalties for criminals.
Becker contends, as do the three other GOP candidates, that Northern Virginia, and particularly Prince William, is being short-changed on road construction and improvement funds. To correct the problem, Becker suggests that alternate sources of revenue, other than gasoline taxes, must be explored, but he has not yet studied what those sources might be.
Harry J. Parrish, 59, is a native of Manassas and has been mayor there for the past 18 years. Parrish is particularly critical of the incumbent delegates from Prince William.
"Being mayor, I've found I had to work with some of my friends in the state legislature rather than with our delegates to get things done," said Parrish, who is president of the Mansassas Ice and Fuel Co.
One way to help solve the road problems in Prince William, Parrish suggests, is to revise state laws to give counties more independence from the state.
"We should be able to determine our own transportation and highway needs," he said, "rather than depending on the state highway department to determine what our needs are."
Echoing a complaint of officials from counties across Virginia, Parrish also said there should be more stringent controls on the kinds of mandated educational programs the state can impose on local governments if the state is not going to finance such programs.
Jack Rollison, 31, agrees with other candidates that some way must be found to improve the road system in Prince William. Rollison, a resident of Woodbridge for 18 years and president of the Rollison Brothers Tire Co., suggests that a new formula for distributing highway funds is needed since the current system is "unfair to urban areas and weighted heavily in favor of more rural areas."
Rollison also believes the state should take a more active role in encouraging economic development, to attract new industries and provide more jobs.
Like Parrish, Rollison is concerned about the costs of state-mandated education programs and says he favors cutting administrative costs of the state's educational bureaucracy. A strong supporter of better working conditions and salaries for teachers, Rollison said, "A large chunk of (education) money is being spent because it's available and not because it should be spent."
Rollison is the only GOP candidate in Prince William to favor ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
The fourth GOP candidate, 33-year-old Smith W. Young, is a computer analyst with General Electric who has lived in Dale City for a year.
"Northern Virginia is simply getting ripped off," Young said, "and we need to correct the inequities in the state government between Northern Virginia and southern Virginia."
Formulas for distributing state transportation and education funds need to be revised, said Young, who also believes Northern Virginia needs improved mass transit.
Noting that the Reagan administration is trying to place more authority and responsibility in state and local governments, Young said the state needs to attract more "attractive and quiet high-technology companies" that will provide additional tax revenues to support various programs and ease the burden on the taxpayer.
"Growth is going to occur whether you plan for it or not, and I think it's important to plan for it," he said.