Audrey Moore, the Democrat running for chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, challenged incumbent Chairman John F. Herrity yesterday to a series of six debates, beginning in July. Herrity, a Republican, promptly declined, saying he would debate Moore -- and two independent candidates -- after Labor Day.

Moore, supervisor for the Annandale District, issued the challenge in an early morning news conference on the steps of the Massey Building, the 12-story county government headquarters.

She said that while the campaign is already in full swing, voters have not heard the candidates in juxtaposition.

"Instead of having the Audrey and Jack show," she said, "we've got the Audrey show and the Jack show.

"We're together all the time {at various events}. We talk to everybody else but we don't talk together," she said.

Herrity, who has raised more than $100,000 and already is running two radio advertisements, said: "There's going to be no campaign until after Labor Day. That's when people start focusing." Moore said she had raised $53,000.

Herrity's decision to forgo debates until the fall contravenes the recommendations of at least one of his advisers, businessman Joe Ragan.

Ragan, known to some as the guru of Northern Virginia Republican politics, said yesterday he had urged Herrity to debate Moore early and often. "I think he should be functioning as the challenger and not as the incumbent," said Ragan. "I think Audrey's proposals are shallow and they need to be exposed early."

A recent poll of likely voters conducted by The Journal Newspapers showed Moore and Herrity running in a dead heat, with nearly a third of the respondents undecided. While the survey indicated that Herrity had gained support during the last several months, a number of political analysts, including some of Herrity's aides, say he remains in political trouble.

They cite the general antidevelopment mood of the electorate as well as Herrity's conviction last summer on a misdemeanor charge of violating the state's public disclosure law.

The Journal poll underscored their analysis of Herrity's situation; nearly as many respondents thought of him unfavorably as favorably.

By contrast, more than four times as many people had a favorable view of Moore than an unfavorable one.

For that reason, advisers such as Ragan say they think Herrity should be aggressively attacking Moore, not waiting until Labor Day as other incumbents might be able to afford doing.

Moore, on the other hand, is thought likely to benefit from early debates, as her name is not as well recognized as Herrity's. The Journal poll found that while 36 percent of the respondents had not heard of her, all but 12 percent knew Herrity's name.

Moore, who said that transportation and development would be the "focal point" of the clash between the candidates, called for the debates to be moderated by journalists.

Asked about the suggestion, Herrity said that "no decisions on format have been made."

He also declined to say how many debates he was willing to enter.