The race for the 32nd District Senate seat presents a clear choice: The two candidates disagree on virtually every issue, including what constitutes the district's top concerns.

The Republican challenger, a former federal prosecutor making her first run for office, says district residents are, above all, fed up with traffic congestion and thus are looking to send to Richmond someone who can "unlock gridlock."

"The reason I'm running is that I've been stuck in traffic too many times," said Whitney Adams, a McLean resident who now runs a private law firm specializing in small businesses. "It is a problem that affects the most people in the district."

The Democratic incumbent, a former civic activist in Reston who is seeking her third four-year Senate term, says that while transportation is a concern, many of her constituents are worried about crowded schools and the quality of education.

"The number one issue is public education and preparing the children for the future," said Janet D. Howell, who was elected to the Senate in 1991. "My priority will be to get the children out of trailers and into smaller class sizes."

The two candidates also differ on how they would tackle the issues of traffic congestion and school crowding. The 32nd District includes Tysons Corner, Reston, Great Falls, McLean and parts of the Dulles corridor.

Adams, 53, advocates overhauling the Virginia Department of Transportation, which she says is inefficient and takes too long on road projects. Pouring more money at the problem hasn't improved traffic flow, she said.

"You can't even get VDOT to put in a three-way stop sign without a study," said Adams, who proposes privatizing transportation projects, creating a "virtual VDOT" with online public hearings and allocating road money according to traffic volume.

Howell, who serves on the Senate transportation subcommittee, says those ideas are "cosmetic" and "naive."

"Her proposals are not going to ease the gridlock," said Howell, 55. "They will only add to the public process, and actually slow down the process."

Howell supports a Democratic Party plan that calls for a massive infusion of state money for road improvements.

Under the plan, half of every budget surplus would be set aside to ease traffic congestion. The state could raise an additional $71 million a year for transit use by dedicating recordation taxes--fees paid when real estate is sold--that now go to local governments.

On education, Adams supports performance-based pay for teachers, including bonuses for outstanding instructors.

"Some teachers should be paid more, others less," said Adams, whose two teenage sons attend St. Albans School in Northwest Washington. "I want government to operate more like a business."

Howell, who has two grown sons, says smaller classes are needed, and she supports added state funding for school construction.

"We want to make sure very child gets the attention," Howell said. "We've had some success, but we need to do more."

Adams supports the Standards of Learning tests now required of all public schools in Virginia. Howell, questioning the testing method, voted against the measure.

Adams and Howell agree in principle on gun control but differ on emphasis. Adams wants improved criminal background checks, while Howell supports banning certain weapons and requiring a three-day wait for handgun purchases.

DISTRICT 32: State Senate

Whitney Adams (R)

Age: 53.

Residence: McLean.

Education: BA, Randolph Macon Woman's College; MA, University of North Carolina; post-graduate fellow, Georgetown University; JD, George Washington University.

Occupation: Lawyer in private practice.

Elected offices/civic activities: Former assistant general counsel, SEC; Fairfax, Reston, Vienna, McLean and U.S. chambers of commerce; former assistant U.S. attorney; former deputy director, Federal Evaluation, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; board member, Greater Washington Boys and Girls Clubs.

Family: Single; two children.

Why should the voters elect you?

"A former federal prosecutor and senior government manager, I am a single soccer mom, civic volunteer and Virginia lawyer. I am the first candidate to announce an innovative, common-sense plan to stop traffic gridlock, which damages our quality of life and puts an annual hidden tax of over $1,000 on everyone. I will overhaul VDOT, broaden citizen input to coordinate and expedite planning, use technology to get better use of existing roads and transit systems and jump-start private initiatives to expand transportation dramatically. I will also streamline state government and support performance-based teaching standards in our schools."

What would you like voters to know about you?

"I am devoted to my family and friends, and I decided to run because the Democratic incumbent has never fought for our transportation needs."

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Janet D. Howell (D)*

Age: 55.

Residence: Reston.

Education: BA, Oberlin College; MA, University of Pennsylvania.

Occupation: State senator.

Elected offices/civic activities: President, Forest Edge PTA; chairman, Virginia State Board of Social Services; vice chairman, Citizens for Land Use and Transportation Planning; chairman, Reston Transportation Committee; board member, County Council of PTAs.

Family: Married; two children.

Why should the voters elect you?

"After living in Northern Virginia for 25 years, I understand the needs of my district and the aspirations of its people. My goals are to improve our education systems; fund our transportation network; provide services for vulnerable citizens; protect our natural resources; create well-paying jobs; and prevent violence in our communities, homes and schools. Handgun Control, Fraternal Order of Police, NARAL, Washington Metropolitan Board of Trade and the Virginia Education Association have endorsed me. The Northern Virginia Technology Council presented to me its first lifetime achievement award. I keep my promises to voters and work to make Virginia a state to be proud of."

What would you like voters to know about you?

"I am committed to working across party and regional lines for what is in the long-term best interests of our people and state."

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E-mail address: