The 33-year-old Marine Corps veteran who runs the shock troops of the Virginia Republican Party is going back to work for his old boss, former governor George Allen (R), who is bracing for an exciting--and expensive--race next year to unseat U.S. Sen. Charles S. Robb (D).

Chris LaCivita, literally a battle-hardened veteran of war and political infighting, moves from his perch as executive director of the statewide GOP to be Allen's campaign manager, in charge of strategic planning on how to pry Virginia's junior senator out of the seat he has held since 1988.

LaCivita, a tart-tongued native of steel-producing country in Pennsylvania, knows Virginia and its voters well. He cut his teeth doing field work on Allen's 1991 congressional campaign in central Virginia, then went with him to Capitol Hill, where he worked as a legislative assistant on defense and foreign policy issues.

In Allen's successful race for governor in 1993, LaCivita organized in the Richmond area, Southside and central Virginia, then went to work in state government as an assistant secretary of administration.

He left in 1995 to help run Allen's political action committee, assisting legislative races that year. He went to work for the party in the summer of 1996, where he then worked to win seven out of seven special elections that marked historic gains for the GOP in the General Assembly.

"He's got a pretty good winning record," said Jay Timmons, the longtime Allen aide who will be the campaign's general consultant on communications.

"I don't think you could find a better team player."

As a corporal in the Marine Corps, LaCivita served in the Persian Gulf War, where he was hit by enemy shrapnel on the left side of his face.

No word yet on his replacement as the party's executive director.

Gilmore's South American Trade Tango

Overseas trade missions by governors are sometimes little more than pleasurable, sightseeing junkets, but Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) is trying to make genuine news on his 13-day swing through South America, the first ever by a sitting Virginia governor.

Last week, while in Rio de Janeiro, Gilmore announced that the library system at Virginia Tech had signed a contract with the Brazilian city's 18,000-student university to supply library cataloguing software.

The next day, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Gilmore announced the opening of a new international trade office there, joining Virginia's other overseas trade shops in Frankfurt, Germany, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Mexico City. The Brazil trade office will work in conjunction with the Virginia Port Authority, which has been represented in Sao Paulo for 17 years.

The same day, Gilmore announced that the Chantilly-based Environmental Products Corp. (Envipco) had signed a distribution agreement to export container recycling equipment to a Brazilian firm.

Envipco President Bill Robinette, traveling with Gilmore, said the agreement between the 300-employee firm in Fairfax County and the Brazilian concern "can show other Virginia companies the value of collaborating with locally respected firms."

By week's end, Gilmore was announcing a sister-state agreement with Santa Catarina, Brazil's third largest tourism destination. Earlier this week, in Santiago, Chile, he announced that a Richmond-based firm had joined with a Colombian company to manufacture plastic shopping carts for Latin American markets.

Rehrig International of Richmond is the world's largest manufacturer of plastic shopping carts, with annual sales of over $50 million.

Traffic Technology Gets Road Test

Fairfax City is testing some new traffic technology--including special sensors to give emergency vehicles a perpetual green light--while Fairfax County has developed some strategies for dealing with an age-old problem: pedestrians who think they can outrun the traffic while trying to cross Route 50 near the Loehmanns Plaza shopping center.

City officials announced this week that they are using a traffic surveillance camera, currently at the intersection of Main Street and Pickett Road, which allows visual off-site assessment of accidents and road conditions.

The city is also testing a video camera that regulates traffic signals, much like the in-pavement sensors now in use; and a signal preemption device, which gives approaching ambulances and fire trucks a green light at intersections, then resets the signal to its normal cycle. The sensors are being tested along the Main Street and Lee Highway corridors.

Fairfax County, meanwhile, plans to install fencing along the median of Route 50 near Graham Road to try to cut down on the number of traffic accidents involving pedestrians. Another crosswalk and a pedestrian-controlled traffic signal are also being planned, transportation officials said.

Citizenship Institute Meets in Capital

For the first time, the Virginia Citizenship Institute is meeting, and the new four-week course for college juniors and seniors is in Richmond tomorrow, studying the ins and outs of governing in the capital city.

The institute is the brainchild of a law student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville--its home base--and has considerable corporate and political support. Rather than focusing broadly on national or international issues, the course is designed to interest students in statewide affairs in the Old Dominion.

Robb Opens Web Site for Campaign

U.S. Sen. Charles S. Robb (D) has gone electronic again, creating the first Internet site in the race for his seat next year.

The site, www.robb2000.org, will help Robb "convey our message of strength and opportunity to the greatest number of Virginians," he said in a statement.

"I'm confident that when Virginians access my Web site, they'll find an important new medium in the political process," Robb said.

The site features Robb's biography, his U.S. Senate record, various speeches and links to the campaign.

Staff writer Marylou Tousignant contributed to this report.