Voters can be forgiven if they think of Norborne P. Beville Jr. and William J. Becker as the Bobbsey twins of Prince William County politics. On most of the major issues, the two candidates for the Brentsville seat on the Board of County Supervisors are in agreement.
Each favors controlling growth through planning, with the county's comprehensive plan -- a development road map -- as one of the primary guides.
The two have similar stands on a proposal to place a sanitary landfill in a remote part of their district: They oppose locating the facility in a largely rural area where ground water might be contaminated and roads are inadequate.
Both men support a $44.9 million school bond referendum on the Nov. 3 ballot. And each points to working with developers to help pay for roads and seeking regional cooperation as ways to address the county's transportation problems.
What's more, the similarities don't end there. Becker and Beville, both longtime county residents, ran unsuccessfully in 1981 for the House of Delegates.
"I think we both have basically the same views on the issues," said Becker, a 68-year-old semiretired businessman, who is the Republican candidate for the seat being vacated by Democrat Joseph D. Reading.
"It's just a matter of the people deciding who they want."
Beville, 46, a Manassas lawyer and the Democratic candidate, agreed, noting that the primary question for voters is "who can do the best job in representing the district."
Beville, a county resident for 19 years, eight of them in Brentsville, speaks of his work on various county panels and says he would work well with the other supervisors on the board, which he believes will remain controlled by Democrats.
There are currently five Democrats on the seven-member board.
Becker, a Brentsville resident of more than 20 years, touts his experience in the military and the public and private sectors as an indicator that he could best represent the district.
Theirs is a campaign marked by cleanliness, one in which there appears to be no animosity between them. Becker called Beville a "friend."
Beville said, "I've known Bill and Elizabeth, his wife, for years."
But the candidates are not spending a great deal of time talking about each other, and there is at least one good reason.
The real challenge for Becker and Beville -- who plan to spend $8,000 and $10,000, respectively, on their campaigns -- may be simply to get their message across to the voters of Brentsville, one of the county's largest and most diverse magisterial districts.
"The biggest problem is trying to reach the people of this district," said Pat Colgan, Beville's campaign manager. "There is no central population base."
The district, which stretches from near Manassas in the east to the Fauquier County line in the west, has residents from all income groups, with new subdivisions butting up against rolling fields.
John Tate, a Becker supporter, called Brentsville the most difficult area in the county in which to wage a campaign.
"It's hard to go to 20 farms each three miles apart and then canvass a dense town house development," he said.
According to Tate, Brentsville, like most of Prince William, has experienced an influx of residents in recent years. "There are a heck of a lot of new voters in this district, and they will decide this election," he said.