The views of two rookie candidates battling for the Democratic nomination in Prince William's 51st House District are as varied as their backgrounds, providing a glimpse into the larger rift between the liberal and moderate wings of the party.

Grant Gary Jacobsen, 58, is an unabashedly liberal former newspaper columnist who quit his job in a bid to represent parts of Dale City and Lake Ridge in the Virginia General Assembly. Jacobsen, a former Marine and business owner, collected few donations and has bought a handful of yard signs only, yet he can draw on a $50,000 personal loan from his wife if he needs it.

Virginia M. Stephens, 34, is a Lake Ridge lawyer who has built her campaign on transportation, growth management and other "kitchen-table concerns." She has spent thousands of dollars more than her better-funded opponent and has support from Supervisor John D. Jenkins (D-Neabsco) and other prominent local Democrats.

Both hope to represent Democrats in a grudge-match effort to win back the 51st District seat from Del. Michele B. McQuigg (R), a former county supervisor whose special election victory in 1998 helped Republicans gain virtual control of the House of Delegates.

Jacobsen has released a 14-point platform outlining his positions on issues ranging from gun control to education. He has proposed a "safe schools" program that would include a ban on rifles and shotguns on school grounds, and he favors the creation of special two-year high schools that would focus on carpentry, mechanical work and other vocational training.

Jacobsen, of Woodbridge, has accused Stephens of not taking detailed stands on most issues and has criticized her ties with establishment Democrats.

Her husband, Steve Pazmino, has managed campaigns for former delegate David G. Brickley and other Democrats.

"She's part of the old Brickley machine," Jacobsen said. "They have Brickley's old mailing list, Brickley's old donor list, and all the rest. . . . But no one knows what her stands on the issues are."

Stephens said that she doesn't want to offer specifics on some issues until she studies them further and that Jacobsen's lack of contributors shows a lack of popular support.

"I think I am much more aligned with the mainstream than Mr. Jacobsen," Stephens said. "He seems to have a very liberal viewpoint. I am much more moderate than he is."

Stephens increasingly has focused her campaign on the need for more state money to build roads, schools and other facilities overburdened by Northern Virginia's growing population.

But she declined to offer her opinion on impact fees and several other development issues that are likely to be debated by legislators in coming sessions. Jacobsen said many attempts to control development are an assault on inexpensive housing needed by low-income families.

Although both candidates have spent most of their time attacking each other, McQuigg has not escaped attack. Jacobsen in particular has lobbed numerous rhetorical grenades at the incumbent, calling her an "arch-conservative" whose legislative performance is "an embarrassment."

Grant Gary Jacobsen

Age: 58

Community: Longwood Estates

Years in 51st District: 26

Education: BS, University of Illinois; MBA, California State Polytechnic University.

Occupation and work experience: U.S. Marine Corps; corporate executive; assistant professor of business, Northern Virginia Community College, Woodbridge, present.

Political offices and civic activities: No prior political offices; member, I-95 Corridor Study Task Force; alternate member, Commission on Transportation; supporter, Potomac Hospital Foundation; member, Friends of Chinn Park Regional Library; member, Friends of Potomac Community Library; special honoree, National Women's Political Caucus.

Family: Wife, Olga; three foster children.

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

My first priority will be to establish a "safe schools" program in Virginia, similar to the successful program in Pennsylvania. The program includes matching grants to localities that develop innovative security programs; hiring more "security aides" for schools; intercoms in all classrooms; crisis response training for school staff; and finally the repeal of the Virginia law which currently allows non-students to bring rifles and shotguns onto school grounds.

My second priority will be to reduce the incidence of gun violence throughout the state. I support the new federal standards concerning background checks for purchasers and gun locks for unattended firearms. In addition, I will advocate mandatory marksmanship and gun safety training for prospective gun purchasers; a minimum age of 21 for ownership and use of firearms; and state registry of firearms by serial numbers, similar to the way automobiles are now registered.

I will seek support for these measures by appealing to moderates in both political parties.

Virginia M. Stephens

Age: 34

Community: Dale City

Years in 51st District: 7 years

Education: BS, political science, University of Illinois; juris doctorate, Washington University.

Occupation and work experience: lawyer, Virginia M. Stephens Law Offices; former partner, Pfitzner, Morley and Stephens; residential counselor for autistic adults.

Political offices and civic activities: board member, Prince William Boys and Girls Club; Community Services Board; Zoning Ordinance Review Committee; Dale City Civic Association; chamber of commerce; board member, Voluntary Action Center; George Mason University, Prince William Institute Study Committee; Prince William Zonta; Prince William Democratic Committee; Ladies Auxiliary VFW Post 1503.

Family: Husband, Steve.

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

Managing residential growth to decrease congestion on our roads and crowding in our classrooms as well as safe and accountable schools are my two priorities. I strongly support managed growth while respecting the rights of individual property owners. I will fight for our fair share of funding for more road improvements and to build and refurbish older schools. We need more and better roads and commuter parking lots, not longer commutes to work or while driving in our county. We also need more classrooms, not trailers. I will focus my efforts on kitchen-table concerns, not issues that divide us.

The state government in Richmond needs to recognize the needs of Northern Virginia when it comes to the amount of time we spend in our cars instead of with our families. The commute in Northern Virginia is the second longest in the nation, next to Los Angeles, and our traffic problems will only get worse as the construction on the Springfield interchange continues. Our roads and schools cannot handle the amount of people that growth has brought to Prince William and Northern Virginia.

As delegate, I will work to make sure that Northern Virginia localities receive the funds that are necessary to help cope with these problems. Local zoning decisions are guided by laws passed in Richmond. More funding for localities only makes sense.

I will also fight for more schools, to repair older schools and make our schools safer. The work world is getting more complex, competitive. Without a quality education our children will be left behind when it comes to getting a quality job in the next century. Our children need to learn in a safe environment that provides a quality education. Crowded classrooms make it harder to teach our children and provide a safe surrounding for learning.

I have served effectively in many positions of leadership in Prince William County and have learned how to work with others to achieve common goals.