Robert J. Franklin is the latest candidate to join the highly competitive race for commissioner of revenue in Stafford County.

The race for commissioner of revenue typically is a ho-hum contest, particularly in Stafford, where George L. Gordon Jr. has held the position since 1942. But Gordon's retirement, after a 57-year stranglehold on the position, has prompted four candidates to seek the office.

In addition to Franklin, Board of Supervisors Chairman Kenneth T. Mitchell, planning commissioner John Harris and Scott Mayausky, an official in the revenue office, are vying for the position.

Mitchell and Mayausky, both Republicans, will meet in a June 8 primary. The victor will face Harris and Franklin, who are running as independents, in the November general election.

Franklin, who filed his petition to seek the office last week, explained his reasons for joining the race.

"I'm essentially running because when I started a petition only two people were in, and they're in the Republican primary," he said. "What would have happened if I had not gotten in there is that one of the individuals would've been running unopposed. My goal is just to have some competition in the general election."

Franklin was unaware of Harris's candidacy when he decided to run and would not rule out the possibility that he might withdraw from the race before the November election.

"It depends on what happens in the primaries," Franklin said. "That'll be a factor."

Indeed, Franklin appears to be running, at least in part, to ensure that Mitchell does not gain the office. While withholding comment on Mayausky and Harris, Franklin unleashed an attack on Mitchell.

"Why does an individual like [Ken Mitchell] decide to become commissioner of revenue?" Franklin asked.

"Mitchell declared bankruptcy four years ago, and I had a problem with that," he continued. "I'm concerned when you have established partisan politicians running for this position. There shouldn't be any politics in assessing people's property and deciding what it's worth."

Mitchell did not return calls seeking comment. He has said in the past that he thinks his bankruptcy, which was the result of a carpet business that failed, is not an issue.

Mitchell, who has represented the Aquia District on the Board of Supervisors, is making his second attempt to gain the post of commissioner of revenue. He lost to Gordon four years ago.

Whatever Franklin's reasons for entering the race, he is a highly qualified candidate. Franklin, who is the director of the Fort Belvoir Community Counseling Center, was a member of the Indianapolis school board from 1992 to 1995 and served as a community liaison to the Indianapolis planning commission.

Franklin moved to Stafford with his wife and two children four years ago when Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis closed.

Mayausky, meanwhile, figures to have a solid chance of winning the primary and the general election. Mayausky, 26, has served as a real estate appraiser in the revenue office for the last three years and has received the endorsement of Gordon, who carries considerable political sway in the county.

Harris, 41, is a relative unknown among voters, though he is vice chairman of the county Planning Commission.

In another election development, Garrett Baker announced that he will oppose Del. William J. Howell (R-Stafford) this fall for the District 28 seat.

Baker, who will run as an independent, is unknown in Stafford's political circles. In addition to his relative obscurity, Baker faces the daunting task of unseating a popular six-term Republican incumbent in an overwhelmingly Republican county.

Baker did not return calls seeking comment.