The candidates for Arlington sheriff are getting in a few last-minute digs at each other after a month of relative calm in a campaign that has been anything but placid.

First came a mailer by the sheriff's challenger, former chief deputy Ronald B. Hager, a Republican-backed independent. On the cover is a photograph of Democratic Sheriff James A. Gondles Jr., luggage in hand at an airport.

Inside is "The Jim Gondles Travel Calendar," noting the 85 days that Hager says the sheriff was out of the office in 1986.

Listed are trips to Reno, Nev.; New York; Oklahoma (the sheriff's home state); Seattle; the Eastern Shore; San Diego; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; West Palm Beach, Fla.; San Francisco and Las Vegas, most of them on weekdays.

Hager said he got the dates from Gondles' personal calendar before he quit the department earlier this year to challenge his former boss.

Gondles has said he works more than 40 hours a week and does not need to punch a time clock. He said many of the engagements were law enforcement conferences.

Next came a visit to Arlington by Virginia Gov. Gerald L. Baliles, who toured the jail last week and gave Gondles a ceremonial pat on the back.

He also declared on the steps of the county building that the race had been turned into a personality contest that upstaged the real issues.

That day, two sheriff's deputies were involved in campaign-related incidents. Deputy Stephen Harvey has been suspended for insubordination pending investigation, according to the department.

Harvey said a shouting match with a superior started after he was accused of putting up a handwritten sign in support of Hager on the wall of the jail's booking area.

Another deputy parked a vehicle with large "Gondles for Sheriff" placards at the side of the jail for the governor's arrival, sources in the department said.

In response, deputy Michael Wanzer, who drives a red Corvette covered with "Hager for Sheriff" placards, said he stationed his car in front of the courthouse, where Baliles gave his speech.

Wanzer said the sheriff called him to talk about the car before the governor's address.

Wanzer said other Hager supporters took turns feeding the meter while he was on duty.

But at 1:15 p.m., a sheriff's deputy ticketed the car for being on an expired meter. Wanzer paid a $10 fine the next day.

Gondles said it "irritates" him when deputies take up the few metered spots in front of the courthouse. "The car stood out, it was meant to stand out," he said, "but if you're going to dance to the music, you have to pay the piper."

The $68,275-a-year sheriff's job has been the most hotly contested race of this year's election in Arlington.

Each candidate has accused his opponent of dirty tricks. Sources in the department said yesterday that the mood has grown increasingly tense since the publication in a local newspaper of the names of 23 deputies who support Hager.