Republican Del. Robert T. Andrews, a soft-spoken moderate who is seeking his fifth term in the General Assembly, prefers a low-key approach to tackling problems.
"It's not that you speak up and make a lot of noise. It's whether you can work effectively behind the scenes. That's more my style," Andrews said.
Democrat Katherine Fisher, a civic activist and operative in local party affairs, thinks it is time for a more up-front style and is challenging Andrews to represent the 33rd House of Delegates District.
The district includes McLean, Herndon and Great Falls sections of Fairfax as well as Sterling and new subdivisions in eastern Loudoun County.
Her opponent, Fisher said, "votes, but he does not stand up on the floor. He doesn't ask any questions. He sits there silently. People in the district don't feel fully represented. They don't feel anybody is standing up for them."
Political observers, and even Fisher, 34, predict a tough, uphill fight against Andrews, 67. Unseating an incumbent is difficult, and even more so when that incumbent is viewed as polite and inoffensive, observers say.
Andrews' deliberate style makes him an effective legislator, said Chuck Weir, Republican Party chairman for the 10th Congressional District.
"Comparing Bob with almost every other legislator, he is probably one of the most levelheaded, even-keeled legislators in the assembly," Weir said.
In this heavily Republican district, a number of residents also seem to hold that view. Alfred Metz, a retired government worker who lives in Great Falls, said he thinks Andrews has done a good job in getting money for road improvements and keeping down taxes.
"I've supported Mr. Andrews ever since I've been here and he's been running," said Metz, 65, who said he is Republican but has voted for Democrats in the past.
Andrews, who lives in McLean, is a member of the roads, conservation and mining legislative committees. During the legislative session this year, he helped secure passage of a bill establishing public defender offices in Fairfax and Alexandria.
Fisher, of Herndon, is a receptionist at Government Research Corp., a legislative tracking organization in Washington. She is president of the Junior Woman's Club of McLean and has been active in the Committee for Political Education, the political wing of the AFL-CIO.
Andrews and Fisher have focused much of their attention on transportation, an aggravating concern in a district where the roads have become increasingly clogged by commuters as the western portion has boomed.
Both candidates support a regional approach of working closely with the Fairfax and Loudoun county governments to ensure that road improvements are made to the connecting roads that run through both counties.
Fisher said she hopes to raise $20,000 for her campaign but so far has received about $2,365 in contributions.
She said her money-raising efforts have been hampered by the postponement of two celebrity fund-raisers, which will be held later this month. Former Virginia governor Charles S. Robb and current state Attorney General Mary Sue Terry are scheduled to attend the functions, Fisher said last week.
Fisher said contributions have come from acquaintances, a yard sale and individuals who were on a mailing list of a former candidate in a congressional race. She said she also expects contributions from local chapters of the AFL-CIO.
"It's slow going," Fisher said last week of her money-raising efforts. "It's hard this year when so many people are running. I'm somewhat concerned, but I know this is everyone's mutual problem at the moment. We just hope it's going to get a little easier."
Andrews has raised about $6,810, according to campaign manager Ed Ablard. Ablard said their hope is to reach $25,000.
The campaign manager said most of the money consists of constituent donations that average about $50, and a few heftier contributions from political action committees, including the Truckers Political Action Committee of Virginia, which gave $250, and the Virginia Bankers Association, which gave $500.
Ablard said the campaign had hoped to raise more at this point. But he added that contributors are "putting dollars where the race is the hottest and the needs are the greatest," citing the challenges to John F. Herrity, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, and Nancy K. Falck, the county supervisor representing the Dranesville District.
"It's just not the same degree of concern that the other two races have," the campaign manager said.