Trying to distinguish between the two House of Delegates candidates in the District 14A Republican primary can be a question of style.

A teacher-turned-insurance agent, Patricia Anne Faulkner, 45, said she wants to bring a sense of compassion to state government, mixed with an ounce of good sense. She often talks about how Maryland's foster care system failed a third-grade student of hers who was put in the home of an abuser.

Righting those wrongs "are the kind of things that make me want to be active," Faulkner said.

Her opponent, Steven S. Lakin, 30, said his background as a vice president for a Washington-based tax and economic policy think tank makes him better able to deal with the technical or analytical side of running the government. But that doesn't mean he can't empathize with his constituents.

"If you don't care about them, if you are not knowledgeable about their problems, you can't be effective," he said.

The winner of the Sept. 11 primary will take on incumbent Del. Joel Chasnoff, a Democrat, in a district that covers the northeastern corner of Montgomery County from Olney to Burtonsville.

Faulkner, who lost to Chasnoff in 1988, said she is better suited to take on the incumbent because she been active in Montgomery civic affairs far longer than Lakin. A 12-year resident of the Fairland area, Faulkner is president of the Columbia Road Civic Association and works with civic groups examining ways to manage development.

Controlling growth is a concern shared by many in the district because it is one of the fastest-growing parts of the county, Faulkner said.

Faulkner said she opposes raising property and income taxes and would look to adopting development impact fees, user fees or excise taxes if revenue is needed.

On the issue of abortion, Faulkner said a woman should have a right to choose "for medical or moral reasons in the first trimester" but after that, she favors abortions only for health reasons. She said a mother's health should be balanced against that of the fetus in the third trimester.

Lakin said he supports abortion rights in accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that currently permits abortions. He said Faulkner distinguishes between trimesters in her abortion position so "she can say she's pro-choice some of the time and pro-life at other times."

Lakin said that even though he has lived in the Montgomery County district for just three years, "I'm no less active in community affairs" than Faulkner. He sits on the board of directors of the Oak Springs Estates Homeowners Association and is a member of the Greater Colesville Civic Association.

Lakin also said he brings a better understanding of government issues to the campaign because of his professional work. He is the chief fund-raiser for the Institute for Research on the Economics of Taxation and also acts as the nonprofit think tank's liaison with business, Congress and administration officials. In 1983, at the age of 23, he was the youngest person appointed to the President's Private Sector Survey on Cost Control, better known as the Grace Commission.

Lakin said he opposes increasing any taxes or fees at this time and would look first at spending cuts if additional revenue is needed.