Arlington Democrats last night nominated Karen Darner, a school speech therapist and civic activist, to run for the seat in the Virginia House of Delegates made vacant by the death last month of veteran Democratic Del. Warren G. Stambaugh.

Darner got 779 votes at the party's canvass, held at the Lyon Park Community Center, to 417 for Stambaugh's widow, Rosemary.

Darner will face Republican candidate Alice Tennies and Libertarian Party candidate Richard E. Sincere in a special election Jan. 8.

Warren Stambaugh, who died of an apparent heart attack, represented the 49th District, in the southeast third of Arlington County.

Darner, a speech therapist in the county school system, is a former president of both the Arlington Education Association and the county League of Women Voters.

After getting the Democratic nomination last night, she said that if elected, she would "fight to maintain the funding that we already have," in the face of impending budget cuts.

"But for right now, all my attention will be focused on the Republican nominee," said Darner, who said she will hold her first debate with Tennies "probably sometime next week."

Tennies, a 13-year resident of Arlington, is best known for her activism in the county's public schools.

She was one of the chief opponents of the Family Life Education program, a state-mandated sex education curriculum introduced this fall in Arlington County classrooms.

Tennies's campaign manager, Cameron Quinn, said in an interview that if elected, Tennies hopes to address such issues as increased funding for education and transportation in the county, and to limit the impact of recent state budget cuts on Arlington.

Sincere said the Libertarian Party has as its main philosophy limiting government involvement in the lives of its citizens. He cited business as an example.

"There's far too much regulation of business, keeping poor people and working class people out of private enterprise," Sincere said in an interview. He said he would also seek to reduce taxes and limit state spending.