Virginia voters will head to the polls Tuesday to decide an array of state and local races in which the dominant themes have been contentious debates about growth and transportation.
Also on the ballots will be a referendum to decide whether Virginia should have a state lottery. This issue has inflamed activists on both sides, but has not elicited much attention from large blocks of voters in Northern Virginia, according to opinion surveys.
Polls in all localities will open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.
The entire Virginia General Assembly -- 40 members of the Senate, 100 members of the House of Delegates -- is up for election. All seats on the boards of supervisors of Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties will be filled, as will two at-large seats on the five-member Arlington County Board.
Together, these state and local governing bodies decide most major land-use and transportation issues in Northern Virginia, where the questions of how best to cope with traffic and development have animated many contests.
This has been particularly true in the high-profile race for the chairmanship of the Fairfax County Board, in which three-term incumbent John F. Herrity, a Republican, is facing a strong challenge from Democrat Audrey Moore, a four-term supervisor from the Annandale District.
Voters in some localities also will decide referendum questions, including whether to accept $44.89 million in public debt to build new schools in Prince William County through the sale of bonds, $15 million in bonded debt to buy park land in Loudoun County, and $15 million in Fairfax City for improvements on Chain Bridge Road and University Drive.
Political observers in both major parties contend that voter turnout could be decisive in some contests. Historically, Northern Virginia voter turnout in off-year elections not featuring a prominent national or statewide race has been low, in the range of 40 percent. This year, many analysts predict enthusiasm generated by the Herrity-Moore battle and other contests could boost this figure a bit.
There are 385,991 registered voters in Fairfax County, a 4.4 percent increase since the first of the year. Prince William has 64,383 registered voters, a 4.7 percent jump. Increases were more modest in other Northern Virginia localities.
In Fairfax County, the Herrity-Moore campaign, this year's only contested countywide race, will climax a long, often bitter rivalry between two of the region's best-known politicians.
Moore has accused Herrity of implementing progrowth policies that have clogged the county's roads. Herrity contends that Moore's obstructionist tactics against key highway projects are to blame for Northern Virginia's transportation crisis.
The race to chair the nine-member Fairfax board already has broken the record for spending in a local race in Virginia, and is expected to cost as much $750,000 by the end. Both Herrity and Moore have aired commercials on Washington television stations, a first in a Fairfax contest.
Also in the race for the chairmanship are independents James S. Morris Jr., a real estate agent and Robert T. (Terry) Robarge, a mortgage banker.
In an age when the notion of political coattails is often considered obsolete, some observers believe the Herrity-Moore race may prove to be an exception. If Herrity and Moore mobilize large numbers of residents who otherwise wouldn't vote, this could figure importantly in other supervisor contests.
This is particularly true, according to analysts in both major parties, because at least three incumbent Republican supervisors face strong Democratic challenges.
Among the most closely watched of these races has been in Fairfax's Dranesville District, where incumbent Republican Nancy Falck is running against challenger Lilla Richards, a Democratic civic activist, in a contest that has echoed the rhetoric of Herrity-Moore. Robert Thoburn, a Christian activist, is running as an independent in the district, which includes Great Falls and other parts of northern Fairfax.
Another Republican incumbent, T. Farrell Egge, is facing a stiff challenge in southeastern Fairfax's Mount Vernon District, from Democrat Gerald (Gerry) Hyland. The race is a rematch of the 1983 election.
In Fairfax's Springfield District, in the county's far western end, incumbent Republican Elaine McConnell is up against Democratic civic activist Toni Carney and independent Thomas E. Giska, a school counselor.
Some General Assembly races in Fairfax also have drawn considerable attention.
State Sen. Clive L. DuVal 2d, a Democrat and the senior member of Northern Virginia's General Assembly delegation, is running for reelection in the 32nd District against Republican lawyer Bobbie Kilberg, a former White House aide. The district includes Fairfax's McLean area.
In the 34th Senate District, which runs east-west through central Fairfax, incumbent Republican John W. Russell is in a rematch of a tight 1983 race against Emilie Miller, a lobbyist and mental health specialist.
Many eyes also are focused on a spirited battle for the 37th District seat of the House of Delegates. Democratic lawyer Jeffrey J. Fairfield and Republican Jane H. Woods, a teacher, are battling to replace retiring GOP incumbent Stephen E. Gordy in this Fairfax City-area district.
In Prince William's only countywide contest, for commonwealth's attorney, longtime incumbent Paul B. Ebert, a Democrat, is in a hard-fought race against Republican Peter W. Steketee.
Steketee, a Manassas lawyer, has accused Ebert of running an unaggressive and poorly managed office. Ebert, Prince William's top prosecutor for almost two decades, has said his record at convicting defendants is among the best in Virginia.
The Ebert-Steketee race also will be on the ballot in the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.
Unlike Fairfax, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors does not have a chairman elected countywide. The supervisor elections, however, are certain to bring considerable turnover to the seven-member board, since incumbents in the Woodbridge, Coles and Brentsville districts are not seeking reelection and challengers are mounting strong bids to dislodge incumbents in other districts.
In western Prince William's Gainesville District, incumbent Tony Guiffre is running for a second term against Democrat Robert L. Cole, a Manassas area real estate agent. Campaign rhetoric there has focused on policies toward growth and the candidates' abilities to work with other supervisors.
In eastern Prince William, Occoquan District Democrat Kathleen K. Seefeldt, the board's senior member, is facing her first challenge since she was elected 12 years ago. The opposition comes from Republican Gregory L. Cebula, who is employed by a federal contractor in Springfield. With the number of registered voters having increased almost 40 percent since the last county election in 1983, the Occoquan District has seen some of Prince William's most dramatic growth, diminishing what would otherwise be Seefeldt's high name recognition, according to political observers.
In Prince William's school bond referendum, voters will decide on three separate ballot questions -- whether to spend $23.7 million to build a new high school, $11.2 million to build a new middle school, and $9.99 million to build two elementary schools and an addition on a third. Prince William voters have had a history of rejecting bond issues, including nine of the last 11.
In Arlington, four candidates are seeking two of five board seats, and the top two vote-getters will win. In the race are Democrats Albert C. Eisenberg, an incumbent, and William T. Newman and GOP-backed independents Dorothy T. Grotos, a former board member, and Jane Bartlett. If elected, Newman will be Arlington's first black officeholder since it became a county in 1920.
Arlington also has seen a heated campaign for sheriff, in which two-term incumbent James A. Gondles Jr., a Democrat, and GOP-backed independent Ronald B. Hager, Gondles' former chief deputy, have attacked one another on various ethical issues.
In Loudoun County, five-term Blue Ridge District Supervisor James F. Brownell, a former Republican running as an independent, is in a tight reelection battle against Ben Fordney, who as a federal worker is required to run as an independent, but who has been endorsed by the Democrats. Larry Johnson, who runs a national organization of youth vocational clubs, is the Republican candidate. The Blue Ridge District includes the western Loudoun towns of Purcellville and Round Hill.
At the other end of Loudoun, Dulles District incumbent Ann B. Kavanagh, a teacher, is in a heated race with Democrat Benjamin H. Hicks Jr., who works for a Crystal City defense contractor, and independent Clements T. Berezoski, the president of a snow removal company who has outspent his opponents by a margin of more than two to one.