No one, not even his political opponent, disputes that in 14 years, Del. Warren G. Stambaugh has amassed an impressive list of legislative achievements in Richmond.

But whether Stambaugh is consistently mindful of Arlington's local interests has become an issue as the race for the 49th District seat in the House of Delegates gathers steam toward the Nov. 3 election.

The contest pits Stambaugh, a Democrat and eight-term veteran who is often described as part of a new generation of legislative leaders, against James B. Robinson, a Republican who moved into the district from another part of Arlington last year specifically to run against Stambaugh.

The district covers central and south Arlington, including affluent enclaves such as Ashton Heights and Lyon Park and middle-class areas such as Arlington Heights south of Rte. 50. Its makeup ranges from neighborhoods such as Nauck, where black families have lived for generations, to the modern towers of Crystal City, home to thousands of transient professionals.

"I'm running on my record," Stambaugh said. "I am emphasizing my experience and substantive accomplishments." He cited as examples the Virginians with Disabilities Act, which gave comprehensive civil rights guarantees to the disabled, and his major role in increasing Virginia's financing of Metro.

The record includes principal sponsorship in the House this year of a tax revision bill in which the bulk of a $173 million windfall resulting from changes in the federal tax code will be distributed to poor and middle-income taxpayers.

That accomplishment is also an example of the dispute over whether Stambaugh's legislative efforts are tailored to his constituents' needs.

Robinson said the tax distribution is unfair to Arlington and Northern Virginia in general because the region, which is relatively prosperous, provides a greater share of the state's income tax revenue than it will get back under the windfall plan.

"While {the state is} giving the money back, they're not giving it back to the people from which it came," argued Robinson.

Stambaugh disputed Robinson's interpretation of the tax changes, contending that 80 percent of the tax money will go to taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of less than $50,000 a year, a category that includes about 82 percent of the taxpayers in Arlington.

Stambaugh, 43, is a Kentucky native, a Georgetown graduate and a former writer for the American Automobile Association.

He is now an attorney with a general law practice operating out of an office around the corner from the Arlington County Court House. On the wall of his law office is a framed copy of a newspaper profile that portrays Stambaugh as someone who gets things done and isn't afraid to cut legislative deals to do it.

If reelected, Stambaugh said his goals would include efforts to put more safeguards in laws governing involuntary civil commitment and to improve community mental health services. Gov. Gerald L. Baliles has made it clear that he will consider increased funding for state mental health facilities in the upcoming legislative session.

Robinson, 44, is a former vice president of the American University in Cairo and a former senior budget examiner with the federal Office of Management and Budget. Two years ago he left his job as a consultant at the World Bank to sell real estate and devote more time to politics.

He has been involved in civic activities, including a school superintendent's committee studying school crowding.

Robinson said that if elected, he will try to change state allocation formulas for transportation and education to increase the share earmarked for Northern Virginia. He also favors raising the supply of housing, in part through techniques such as allowing in-law apartments in single-family homes.

He accuses Stambaugh of being out of step with the wishes of a majority of residents and aloof from local concerns.

Robinson said Stambaugh did little to help residents of the district who bitterly opposed state Department of Motor Vehicles plans to build an office in their neighborhood.

Stambaugh said he took no stand on the issue but urged the DMV to voluntarily submit to county planning procedures. The plan was eventually rejected by county officials.

On the statewide level, Robinson criticized Stambaugh's votes against raising the drinking age to 21 and against a bill in which a blood alcohol content of 0.10 in a driver constitutes an automatic drunk driving offense. Both bills were passed into law.

Stambaugh said raising the drinking age unfairly "punishes an entire group for the abuses of some." He said he opposed making a blood al- cohol content of 0.10 an automatic crime because it strips people of their right to defend themselves against the charge.

Robinson acknowledges that he is an underdog in the race. "It's an uphill battle," he said. Campaign funds have been sparse. At last count, Robinson had raised less than $5,000 to Stambaugh's nearly $13,000.

To compensate, Robinson has been campaigning vigorously. The election, he said, is "a referendum on whether the people want some- body to represent this district or somebody who decides without consultation with the citizens what their agenda is."

Stambaugh said, "If people want a legislator who ignores his conscience and ignores the facts as he sees them and votes according to public opinion polls, they should vote against me. I don't believe the people sent me {to Richmond} to vote what public opinion polls say."