Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) tells a humorous story that, once a Northern Virginian thinks deeply about it, isn't all that funny. It reinforces the idea that those who live just south of Washington aren't really Virginians at all, despite where their state taxes are paid.

Not much more than a decade ago, Warner related to me recently, two Southside Virginia congressmen, Watkins M. (Watt) Abbitt and the late William M. Tuck, both wheelhorses of the old Byrd political machine -- would take off together each Thursday or Friday afternoon in the back seat of a chauffeured car, headed for a weekend at home.

They had between them, Warner said, a bottle of bourbon whiskey. Only when they crossed the Rappahannock River near Fredericksburg would they break the seal and begin drinking into mellowness. For only when they were beyond the Rappahannock, they proclaimed, were they in "the real Virginia."

Which brings Metro Scene to the interesting and -- forgetting partisanship -- the reassuring word that Rep. Stan Parris of Fairfax County is preparing to run, as a Republican, for governor of Virginia. It's reassuring because Parris is gambling that his Northern Virginia base is no longer a negative in a state that prefers its chiefs to come from Virginia's heartland.

The only Northern Virginia native to become governor was Alexandria-born Fitzhugh Lee (1886-90), a nephew of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Westmoreland Davis of Loudoun County served (1918-22) before that then-rural county became a Washington suburb. Arizona-born Charles Robb, the current governor, is the first real Washington suburbanite to hold the office. He's a graduate of Mount Vernon High School and a resident of McLean. Under the state Constitution, he can't seek a second term.

Reassuringly, averting regional divisiveness, both of Parris' major Republican rivals have Northern Virginia credentials: Wyatt Durrette was a Fairfax County legislator before moving to Richmond, and former state attorney general Marshall Coleman now lives in McLean. We haven't heard of any Northern Virginia Democrats seeking the office.

This is no endorsement of anybody. But it's an endorsement of the idea that Northern Virginians are -- dare we say? -- Virginians.