For Monte Davis, it must have seemed as though an old campaign speech had come to life.

Hundreds of Arlington residents, angry about a proposed jail release center, crowded a recent Planning Commission meeting. Many of them blamed the county's Democratic establishment for County Manager Anton S. Gardner's plan to put minimum-security inmates, the homeless and drug and alcohol abusers in a facility near Barcroft Park.

Davis, a Republican member of the commission who last month lost to Democrat James B. Hunter in a special election for a County Board seat, had said during the campaign that many Arlington residents are disenchanted with a Democrat-dominated government they believe has become so entrenched that it has stopped listening to its people.

The bitter opposition to the Barcroft proposal seemed to rejuvenate Davis, who received 45 percent of the vote against Hunter while outspending him by more than 2 to 1. On June 12, the day after the overflow Planning Commission meeting and exactly six weeks after her loss to Hunter, Davis jumped back into the fire, filing to run against Democratic County Board member Mary Margaret Whipple this fall.

Although Davis said the Barcroft controversy was only one of several reasons she again decided to run for a County Board seat, she clearly hoped to capitalize on the uproar Gardner's proposal created.

"This was just six weeks after she had lost to Hunter," an Arlington political activist said. "What had changed in six weeks? Nothing, except the Barcroft issue became hot."

But three days after Davis filed for office, Arlington Democrats had managed to cool the Barcroft controversy, and Davis was stewing at what she sees as an "obsession with power" among the Democrats, who control all 15 of the county's elected offices.

Gardner announced that because the state had agreed to accept about 100 inmates from Arlington's crowded jail, the pressure to quickly build a jail release center had been relieved. He withdrew the proposal from the County Board's agenda last week, and said that county staff members will meet with community groups over the summer to work on a new proposal. He said the Barcroft site probably won't be proposed for such a facility.

The agreement with the state settled a lawsuit filed by the county last year. Because Whipple played a key role in discussions that led to the settlement, she may have diffused a key campaign issue for Davis, who is running as an independent backed by Republicans because the GOP filing deadline came during her campaign against Hunter.

County Democrats have been smug about the settlement, saying that it is an example of the type of good work that Whipple, who also is chairman of Metro's board of directors, does all the time. Davis and her supporters say Whipple's prominence on the issue is all politics.

"It's all a setup, and I know that most citizens realize it," Davis said. "{The Democrats} realized that their power has been challenged . . . so they all came out together" and found a way to give credit to Whipple.

Meanwhile, Democrats say that with the Barcroft issue out of the way for now, Davis is left to campaign on a platform that already has been rejected by Arlington voters.

"From the beginning, I thought it was foolish of her to seem to portray {Barcroft} as the main issue, especially when it hadn't even come before the County Board," said Whipple, who is seeking her third term.

Davis, who could benefit from running on an election ticket with Rep. Frank R. Wolf and Sen. John W. Warner, said she learned from her first campaign and is determined to break the Democrats' hold on Arlington.

"I was a little naive during the first campaign, and I realized too late that I wasn't just running against one person, I was running against a big, powerful government," Davis said. "I still have the fire . . . . I firmly believe that one-party rule does not work anywhere."

Most Democratic activists had expected Davis to wait until next year -- when board members Albert C. Eisenberg and William T. Newman Jr. are up for reelection -- to run for the County Board again. Those activists say Davis could be committing political suicide by running against Whipple, who is considered a more formidable opponent than Hunter, who had not held public office before defeating Davis.

"Monte is looking at being a two-time loser in one year," said County Treasurer Francis X. O'Leary, a Democrat. "Usually in this game, it's two strikes and you're out."