Considering that the prize is one of the most secure and high-paying jobs in Prince William politics, the race to be the Democratic clerk of the court nominee has been surprisingly low key.

Louis Ginesi Dominguez and Joyce M. Sowards have been quietly campaigning for months leading up to Tuesday's county-wide primary, which will determine who will oppose Clerk Dave Mabie (R) in the November general election.

The term of office lasts eight years, and the position's salary currently stands at $104,000 -- one of the highest in Prince William government.

The winner in the end will oversee administration and record-keeping in Prince William County Circuit Court. Both challengers have accused Mabie of paying more attention to politics than his job.

Dominguez, 68, of Gainesville, said he would focus on upgrading courthouse technology and improving customer service. Dominguez, a program director at the National Crime Prevention Council, said his experience as a former hospital administrator and business owner puts him in a better position to oversee the court system than his opponent.

"I'm not faulting anyone for not having a higher education or staying in one place all their lives, but you really have to have a broader experience for a job like clerk of court," said Dominguez, who was a leader in the effort to stop the sale of Prince William Hospital.

Sowards, 56, of Manassas, is a former chief deputy clerk under Mabie who says her 26 years in the Prince William court system give her an insider's insight into the workings of the courthouse.

She said she would focus initially on gathering opinions from court workers before implementing major changes.

"I've worked in every position in every area of that office, and I know how things work," Sowards said. "I bring the experience of working on the job and working with the people."

Sowards has been accused of mounting a grudge campaign against Mabie, who demanded her resignation in 1994 for reasons that neither have discussed in detail publicly. Sowards, who was second-in-command under Mabie for three years, said her falling out with him had nothing to do with her election bid.

"I don't hold grudges," Sowards said. "I'm not that type of person. I wouldn't be running for any office if I didn't feel I had the qualifications for it."

Louis Ginesi Dominguez

Age: 68

Community: Gainesville

Years in Prince William County: 33 years

Education: Master of business and public administration, Southeastern University; BS, medical technology and administration, Northeastern Illinois University.

Occupation and work experience: Director, McGruff National Licensing Program, National Crime Prevention Council, Washington, D.C., working with law enforcement, state and municipal governments, federal agencies, schools and others; law enforcement officer; FBI certified instructor; reserve deputy, Prince William County Sheriff's Office; executive officer and major, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Brigade, Virginia Defense Force; crime prevention committee, International Association of Chiefs of Police; loss/crime prevention committee, American Society of Industrial Security; former intelligence officer, U.S. Army; former business owner; former chief medical technologist and hospital administrator.

Political offices and civic activities: Past fund-raising chairman, county branches of American Heart Association, United Way, American Red Cross, Boys and Girls Club; past board member and volunteer, Didlake Occupational Center, the Park West Lions Club and many others; recipient of the Citizen of the Year award (Potomac News); the Distinguished Citizen Award (Federation of Civic Associations); and Civic Leader and Humanitarian, a proclamation, (American Red Cross).

Family: Wife, Maria; three children; seven grandchildren.

What are your two top policy proposals, and how would you gain support for them?

My first priority would be to implement improvements that will translate into a more user-friendly operation. The improvements would be based on a complete assessment of present operations, a customer survey and staff recommendations. Some employees and many customers have expressed a desire for improvements. The Circuit Court judges and their staff would be asked to participate in focus groups and other like activities that would give them full participation in the day-to-day management of the clerk's office. The clerk of court's office is a business and it should be managed and operated as such. In the improved environment, there would not be any room for partisanship or any other form of favoritism. The office of the clerk would operate under the principles of honesty and fairness, and it would be a model for the State of Virginia not only in its professional form of management but also in the effective use of revenues. Improvements would be implemented gradually so that operations are not disturbed.

By the year 2002, the Prince William County clerk's office would not have any resemblance to its present layout and space, and all of the present equipment will be updated. Computer technology would become the most important part of the high quality service that would be offered to customers. A specially designed computer system would digitize all of the records, so that if a lawyer or a title searcher wants to access a record or enter a recording, he/she would be able to do it from their office or home through the Internet. A full and state-of-the-art security system would protect the confidentiality of the records or information provided via the Internet. Fees would be paid electronically, and this, too, would translate into a more effective handling of payments and more efficient accounting function. An added benefit would be the immediate availability of statistical data.

Joyce M. Sowards

Age: 56

Community: Manassas

Years in County: 37

Education: Northern Virginia Community College (various courses).

Occupation and work experience: self-employed; Circuit Court clerk's office, 1968 to 1994, positions ranged from clerk typist to chief deputy clerk.

Political offices and civic activities: None listed.

Family: Husband, Cliff; six children; 17 grandchildren.

What are your two top policy proposals, and how would you gain support for them?

Under my administration as clerk of court, the clerk's office would be professionally managed and in compliance with all the requirements established by the Code of Virginia and by the directives of the Circuit Court of Prince William County. The retention and training of personnel in the clerk's office would be a priority. Since I have worked in most positions in the office, I am familiar with the type of training required for each position and would assure that each employee has received the training necessary to improve the confidence and morale of each position in the office. The end result would be providing timely and accurate service to all users.

I would also ensure the historical records maintained by the clerk are preserved for future generations. There are several methods of accomplishing this task. The paper of older documents contains an acid that causes the documents to deteriorate; a deacidification process would preserve the documents. The use of digital scanning would be utilized to enhance fading documents. These are projects I have worked on in the past and will continue to work on in the future.