Voters in Prince George's County Council District 3, an area torn by controversy this year when its incumbent was charged with cocaine possession, will have a broad choice of candidates to choose from in the Sept. 11 Democratic primary.

The candidates are Anne MacKinnon, a former member of the House of Delegates who was selected to complete Herl's term on the council when he resigned; Rose Marie Hurdle, a municipal leader who advocates a higher tax rate for commerical property as a way to raise money; Dervey A. Lomax, a senior citizen who favors job camps for young people and tax breaks for the elderly; Travis Britt Sr., a civil rights activist who wants an end to busing as a means to achieve desegregation; and James A. Green, a businessman who wants to create new cities along the Capital Beltway.

The resignation of former council chairman James M. Herl from the council -- after a January sting operation caught him with about $50 worth of powdered cocaine -- suddenly opened up a district that was considered safe for the incumbent for many years to come.

District 3 is a diverse community of college students around the University of Maryland at College Park, working-class and gentrified neighborhoods of Riverdale, and middle-class families in New Carrollton.

MacKinnon, 34, was elected to the House of Delegates in 1982 but resigned the seat in June to complete Herl's remaining five months in office.

MacKinnon's appointment, made after a coalition of county leaders agreed to it, has fueled the debate in the district and much of the county concerning ethics in office. MacKinnon's challengers question the way the county's senators agreed in an apparent closed-door deal to name her to the post without allowing meaningful public comment on the process.

"The people didn't have a choice then, they've got a choice now," said Hurdle, 54, who is running independently of the slate. "I'm not tied to any party power broker or monied developers. {There} is the need for a change. The county has got to get the image back, a good image."

Britt, 56, said his main concern "is the government itself."

"We need people to be in office, especially Afro-American elected officials, to do the right thing, instead of getting elected . . . {and} being controlled by the machine which has no regard for the separation of powers," Britt said.

MacKinnon's appointment came a year after the General Assembly imposed on county land developers the state's strictest campaign contribution disclosure requirements. The requirement came after allegations that council members voted favorably on the land-use cases of campaign contributors. Those allegations were never proven, and the campaign disclosure law was eventually overturned by the Maryland Court of Appeals.

MacKinnon, who opposed the ethics legislation in the House because she said it smacked of bossism, said in an interview that if she is elected, she would introduce legislation requiring disclosure of contributions.

Although she was appointed by the same senators she has criticized for trying to control the council, MacKinnon sees herself as an independent.

"I have concerns about the perception of politicians altogether," MacKinnon said. "We've had a rough couple of years in Prince George's County, a lot of infighting between different bodies -- the senators, the County Council and the county executive." But, MacKinnon said, she comes from an "independent background" and believes she can help change that perception.

MacKinnon said the county should be prepared to take up the slack in funding from the state and federal governments for education, health and other social concerns. She said the county should continue to put money into improving its infrastructure to be prepared for the county's next growth spurt. For example, she favors the proposed innercounty connector that would link northern Prince George's to Montgomery, a road that opponents said would lead to overbuilding.

"The economy does pick itself up," MacKinnon said. "We have to prepare for that, when things do improve, we have to be in shape. We can't change the zoning strategies immediately because there is a slowdown."

Britt, a special education instructor in the county school system, and a civil rights activist, said he favors putting an equal amount of county money in all of the public schools. Now, the county's magnet schools, which have special programs to attract students from various racial backgrounds to schools that were either mostly white or black, get the lion's share of money. On the other hand, some neighborhood schools have been reported to have outdated books and little specialized equipment.

Britt said one source of additional money for the school system could come from the elimination of busing to acheive racial desegregation.

"I fought for desegregation," he said. "I would like to see desegregation wherever it is possible. If it happens not to be, if a school is not equal {in desegregation goals} that is not as important to me as quality education."

Lomax, 66, became the first black elected to the College Park City Council in 1957. A native of Prince George's, he is a retired supervisor from the Navy Department.

Lomax cited five areas of concern. He proposes a work camp for drug abusers where they would do labor in exchange for rehabilitation; a job camp for teenagers similar to the Depression-era Conservation Corps; better zoning protection for parts of the county inside the Capital Beltway that have seen haphazard development.

He also called for the Board of Education to set its own tax rate so the "public can pay for what it wants." Now, the school board submits its budget to the county council, which sets the rate. About 70 percent of the county budget goes to schools.

Lomax said the amount of taxes that can be collected from senior citizens and others on fixed incomes should be limited to protect them from rising property assessments. Lomax also proposes to keep the Hyattsville-based Leland Memorial Hospital open as a full-service hospital.

Hurdle, a member of the New Carrollton City Council for four terms, said a top concern is campaign ethics reform. She would vote to limit the amount an individual or a corporation could contribute from the current $2,500 per election cycle to about $100. "That gives everybody an even chance in an election," Hurdle said. Furthermore, council members should disclose all interested parties who have contributed to them before each land-use vote, Hurdle said.

She proposed more money for schools, particularly neighborhood schools. She said the state lottery should be used to help fund public education. Another source of money, she said, could be raising the property rate for commercial buildings but not for homeowners. Currently in Maryland, a separate tax rate for different classifications of property is not allowed.

Green, owner of a home improvement company in College Park, said his main concern is road congestion and he has a proposal to reduce traffic. Green said he would work to create new cities of multi-use high-rises that would be near the Beltway.

The centers would include housing, office buildings, schools and restaurants. He also proposes building a monorail down the center lane of the Beltway.

"It would eliminate a lot of traveling," said Green, 60, a resident of College Park and active member of the Prince George's Chamber of Commerce. He ran for the District 3 office when it was created in 1982 but lost to Herl.

Green said the county could accomplish this dramatic shift in its development pattern by first discouraging new building or rezoning in the outer-Beltway communities and rezoning land in a five-mile radius of the Beltway for multifamily housing, commerical and multiple use. He also would limit new single-family houses in the zone to 5,000 square feet.

The winner of the Democratic nomination will face Republican Larry Ronald Goff Sr. in the general election on Nov. 6.