A retired Air Force general and Republican activist is trying to ground one of the state's most powerful Democrats in the race for state Senate in the 35th District.

Robert H. "Bob" Neitz, 70, has few specific criticisms of state Sen. Richard L. "Dick" Saslaw, 59, but he argues that any politician in office for 23 years deserves some blame for Northern Virginia's clogged highways and crowded schools.

"He has a reputation for getting pretty arrogant," Neitz said. "Anybody who's been in a position of that authority for very long tends to get pretty convinced that they have all the answers. So I think it's time for a change."

Saslaw, who owns a gas station at Braddock and Backlick roads and another in Montgomery County, joined the House of Delegates in 1976. In 1980, he jumped to the state Senate, where he is now Democratic leader. He is a driving force in shaping his party's agenda and pushing it through the legislature. He is widely regarded as an effective--if sometimes abrasive--lawmaker.

Saslaw strongly criticized Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) for attempting to prevent the wife of Hugh Finn, a severely brain-damaged man, from having her husband's feeding tube removed. After she won a court battle against Gilmore, Saslaw fought successfully to have the state repay her court costs.

More recently, he has pushed for greater spending on transportation and higher education. Saslaw bristles at Neitz's contention that lawmakers deserve blame for not preventing traffic problems.

"How can you blame us?" Saslaw said. "The population of Northern Virginia has doubled. You can't double the road network."

Both candidates support major new spending on transportation, funded from a variety of sources, including money from the national tobacco settlement. They agree that emphasis should be placed on funding mass transit programs.

They also agree that more state money should go to school construction to shrink class sizes and to keep students from having to take classes in trailers. Neitz supports the Standards of Learning tests, but he wants educators to focus more on preparing students for existing jobs in the region.

"We need to tailor the education for the jobs that are available, rather than just teaching what we've always taught," Neitz said.

Neitz also favors Gilmore's "Sabre" anti-drug proposal, which would offer $10,000 bounties for the capture of drug kingpins, institute new mandatory sentences for dealers and mandate drug treatment for first-time offenders.

Saslaw also supports Sabre. "So much of this stuff has already been done," he said. "It's window dressing during campaign season."

But Saslaw disagrees with Gilmore's higher-education policy, which has emphasized efficiency over growth. Saslaw contends that the University of Virginia and other state colleges should expand so that more students can attend.

The money would be there, he said, if it weren't for Gilmore's plan to eliminate the car tax, which will cost the state more than $1 billion a year once phased in fully in 2002.

"Realistically, we probably should have told the voters when we [passed] the car tax [cut] that there's a downside, and here it is," Saslaw said.

Another challenger, David D. Goode, 39, has filed as a Green Party candidate for the 35th District Senate seat. But Goode says he is not campaigning and has raised no money for the race. "If people vote for me, I think I could do a good job," he said. "I never set out to become a politician."

DISTRICT 35: State Senate

David D. Goode (Green Party)

Age: 39.

Residence: Springfield.

Education: BA and Master of Liberal Studies in American culture, University of Michigan.

Occupation: Editor and speech writer, Embassy of Korea.

Elected offices/civic activities: None.

Family: Single.

Why should the voters elect you?

"Precisely because I am not a politician seeking office. I have been drafted by others who obtained the signatures needed to get my name on the ballot because they believe I would be a good Virginia state senator. I have neither campaigned nor accepted campaign contributions, which means I would only be obliged to do what is in the best interest of my constituency."

What would you like voters to know about you?

"One of my favorite quotes is: If it is true, how can I object? If it is not, why should I care?"

E-mail address: ddgoode@hotmail.com

Robert H. 'Bob' Neitz (R)

Age: 70.

Residence: Burke.

Education: MA, Rutgers University; JD, Temple University School of Law.

Occupation: Self-employed.

Elected offices/civic activities: Member, Virginia Aviation Board, representing 13 counties and 12 airports; retired brigadier general, U.S. Air Force.

Family: Married; three children.

Why should the voters elect you?

"I bring dedication and analytical skills to a lifetime of interest in public policy and the education to blend my experience with a sound academic understanding of alternatives. I am a pragmatist who believes in getting things done, especially to preserve and enhance the quality of life of citizens at all levels."

What would you like voters to know about you?

"I have lived in Fairfax County since my retirement from the U.S. Air Force 14 years ago. Most of my family is here (four generations), and I want to help assure excellence in education and greater safety for the public."

E-mail address: rhneitz@compuserve.com

Richard L. 'Dick' Saslaw (D)*

Age: 59.

Residence: Fairfax.

Education: BS, University of Maryland.

Occupation: President, RTS Associates Inc., and president, Great Seneca Corp.

Elected offices/civic activities: Senate minority leader; former Senate majority leader; former member, Virginia House of Delegates.

Family: Married; one child.

Why should the voters elect you?

"Over the years, I have become one of the most effective leaders within the General Assembly. As reflected in my voting record, you will find that I have done much in the fields of transportation, education, health and crime. I have authored the Vehicular Homicide Statute and bills allowing Fairfax County to begin financing its own roads; creating drug-free school zones; requiring doctors to inform women of all available options when treating breast cancer. Although we have made significant strides in these areas, much remains to be accomplished as we enter the new millennium."

What would you like voters to know about you?

"I have the experience, proven record, commitment and desire to ensure a high quality of service for the constituents of the 35th District in Virginia."

E-mail address: vasenate35@aol.com