While many Virginia Republicans are licking their wounds over the party's devastating loss in the Nov. 5 elections, some members of the GOP from Northern Virginia are licking their chops.

For years they have complained that the Richmond political establishment and other downstate Republicans have called the shots, leaving the Washington suburbs in their wake as if they were just the GOP's stepchildren. But now, they say, the generals have stumbled badly and the lieutenants are ready to move in.

Three Northern Virginia Republicans already are out testing the waters for a bid for the governorship in four years.

They are:

*Rep. Stan Parris of Fairfax County, who this year lost a Republican bid to deny the party's gubernatorial nomination to Wyatt B. Durrette.

*Former state attorney general J. Marshall Coleman of McLean, who lost a primary bid for the lieutenant governor nomination this year and who lost the race for governor to Charles S. Robb four years ago.

*Fairfax County Board Chairman John F. Herrity, a former congressional candidate who has never ventured into state politics.

Herrity, who has a proven record as a vote-getter in the state's largest localilty, is the surprise political balloon-launcher. He has not been active in statewide activities in the Virginia Republican Party.

"It's a possibility," Herrity said last week, but he refused to say what he is doing or who he is talking with to generate support. He has had three heart attacks while serving as the county's top elected officeholder, and he was back on the jogging trail last week after knee surgery.

Coleman, who recently left a law firm in the District to join a firm at Tysons Corner, said that ever since election night people having been calling him, urging him to run again because he is one of the few Republicans who have run successfully statewide.

But Coleman, who recently was separated from his wife Nikki, said he thinks a decision now on the 1989 race would be "premature."

Parris said that despite this year's convention defeat, he is interested in another shot at the Executive Mansion. But he added that a lot can happen in four years and that he will make a decision later.

One of the factors that some Republicans believe will affect the nomination process is a major power struggle under way within the GOP. Some say it began last week with a letter by Parris that blasted the current leadership and said that victory would come only with changes.

The letter harshly criticized those in the GOP leadership who want only "to preserve their own power," to the detriment of the party.

Parris says that if the Northern Virginia Republicans band with those from another area -- perhaps Tidewater -- the Washington suburban area can take its rightful place in the party power structure.

"I think we've arrived at the point at which Northern Virginia will and should take its legitimate place," said Parris.

Northern Virginia, says Parris, can match the money brokers from Richmond's Main Street establishment any day. One-fifth of the state's voters live in Northern Virginia, says Parris, and it is becoming the economic hub of the state.

Moreover, Parris says that Northern Virginia is more representative of the modern, suburban voters who are beginning to dominate the state. In contrast, Parris attempted to cast the Richmond GOP leadership as a group stuck in another era -- referring to the GOP practice of charging for attendance at mass meetings as a form of "poll tax."

One Richmond Republican, who asked not to be identified, said, "I think he's making a wrong move, depicting himself as an outsider. Is that a very good approach for a guy who wants to be governor?" Another Durrette supporter said it was all just "sour grapes" and that those outside of power always sling mud at those on top.

Coleman declined to jump into the fray. "I don't think this is the time to point the finger of blame," he said. "We can't be setting one faction against another faction."

Parris denies any sour grapes. He said he has just become frustrated with those who hold the philosophy that if you are not ideologically pure, you are excluded.

"If we shrink the tent so that we can't get a whole bunch of ideologies and personalities under it, we're going to suffer," he said. "And the proof of the pudding is that we've gone from nine members of Congress to six; we have not increased our numbers in the General Assembly; we've lost two governor's races back to back, and in this one 250,000 Republicans stayed home.

"Campaigns are still an exercise in organization and personality, perception and ideology. But it's a whole series of factors, not just blind party loyalty. That's dissipating dramatically over the last quarter century," he said.