The race for Democrat Mary Margaret Whipple's Senate seat in Arlington has so far been a low-key, almost amiable ramble for Whipple, a veteran politician who has held the seat since 1996, and her challenger, Republican Scott C. Tate, a local businessman.

Tate, co-founder of an Internet consulting business in Arlington, is stressing his high-tech background, while Whipple focuses on her pro-environmental legislation and her support for mass transit.

"In the state Senate, with technology being so important in the state economy and in the local economy, to have a member from this district who really understands technology from a professional level would be tremendously important," Tate said.

Whipple, 59, is diplomatic about her opponent. After all, as the Democratic incumbent in a Democratic stronghold like Arlington, she can afford to be.

"I think that's valuable experience," she said of Tate's background. "Each person brings a combination of knowledge and experience to the job and that's what he has to offer."

Whipple said she is most proud of her activism on environmental issues and her work to alleviate some of the transportation problems roiling the area. She points with pride to awards from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Virginia Transit Association and shrugs off her designation as the "least business friendly" local legislator by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce.

Whipple sponsored a bill that requires the Virginia Department of Transportation to follow the same rules as private developers when wetlands will be disturbed by its projects, and she secured more than $100,000 to map the wetlands in the Tidewater area more accurately. She helped push through a bill that tightens controls on poultry producers' disposal of chicken waste.

While such issues may seem geographically far afield from her district, which includes areas as diverse as Falls Church, Rosslyn and Clarendon, Whipple said her constituents are passionately interested in environmental issues. She said she got more mail about her "poultry litter" bill during this year's General Assembly session than on any other issue.

As for Tate, if elected, he said he would use his expertise in technology to help alleviate some of the deepest issues affecting Arlington and its neighbors to the west: transportation, education and economic development.

Tate said high-tech solutions such as "smart" roads that better coordinate traffic and incentives to the state's employers to permit more workers to telecommute are two ways to reduce the load on the area's congested roadways. He also would like to explore the possibility of putting full-time computer-lab specialists in schools.

Tate, 39, ran briefly as an independent last spring in the Arlington County Board's special election. He withdrew and threw his support to the eventual victor, Republican Mike Lane.

Whipple's first public post was on the Arlington County School Board in 1976. She ran for the County Board in 1982 and served on the board until 1995, when she was elected to the state Senate.

A big issue looming on the horizon for the eventual winner is a proposal to widen Interstate 66 through Arlington. Both candidates say many other solutions should be explored first.

"There are certainly many transportation projects in Northern Virginia that are far more critical than that would be," Whipple said.

"It's probably something that should be the last resort and not the first," Tate said.

DISTRICT 31: State Senate

Scott C. Tate (R)

Age: 39.

Residence: Arlington.

Education: Attended Georgetown University.

Occupation: Technology consultant; CEO, CompuTate, LLC.

Elected offices/civic activities: Chairman, Technology Committee, Ashlawn Elementary School PTA; 1997 Outstanding Volunteer of the Year, National Women's Center; co-chairman, InfoBITS 1998 Technology Conference, Arlington; volunteer producer and host of "CompuTwins," Arlington Community Television.

Family: Married; three children.

Why should the voters elect you?

"Technology has become a dominant feature in the life of the residents of Northern Virginia, not just as an industry, but as a professional, communication and recreational tool. However, we must see this tool in a more comprehensive manner and integrate it with transportation, education and other concerns of the Arlington and Falls Church communities. The state Senate needs greater diversity in the professional backgrounds of its members, especially as it's related to the complex technology issues that come before it. Let's make the 31st District the first district to put a technology professional in the state Senate."

What would you like voters to know about you?

"As a technology professional and Internet pioneer, parent and small-business owner, I'll use my vision and vigor to represent you in Richmond."

Web site: www.tateforsenate.org

E-mail address: scott@tateforsenate.org

Mary Margaret Whipple (D)*

Age: 59.

Residence: Arlington.

Education: BA, American University; MA, George Washington University.

Occupation: Former editor and teacher.

Elected offices/civic activities: Former member and chairman, Arlington County Board; former member and chairman, WMATA (Metro) Board; former member and chairman, Arlington School Board; Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.

Family: Married; two children.

Why should the voters elect you?

"Extensive experience in local government prepared me to be an effective legislator in Richmond. Frequent contacts with my constituents keep me in touch with the community, and I keep my constituents informed with newsletters and town meetings. I am an advocate for education, rights of privacy, health care reform, public safety and fiscal responsibility. In addition, I have concentrated on environmental concerns such as wetlands protection, poultry litter regulation, out-of-state trash, "smart growth" and encouraging public transportation. Much work remains; if reelected, I pledge my best efforts on behalf of the citizens of Arlington and Falls Church."

What would you like voters to know about you?

"The Chesapeake Bay Foundation named me its 1998 Virginia Legislator of the Year. I am 1999 Legislator of the Year for the Virginia Transit Association."

Web site: www.vademocrats.org/99/whipple

E-mail address: mmwhipple@erols.com