Democrat Robert D. "Bob" Hull, 44, the delegate from the 38th District, has lived within a three-mile radius of his Falls Church home all his life except when he went away to college. He has represented the district since 1993 and had been active on local citizen organizations for 19 years before he was elected.

By comparison, his Republican opponent, Stephen F. Smith, is a newcomer, having lived in the district for just over three years. The 32-year-old, who wants to be the first black Republican delegate from Northern Virginia since Reconstruction, grew up in Anacostia, went to law school and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. He is now a lawyer at the firm of Sidley & Austin and teaches part time at George Mason University Law School.

Hull, a self-employed information technology consultant, says Smith is the toughest and best-financed opponent he has faced in his seven years in office.

Smith freely talks about his background growing up poor in Anacostia and has made it something of a campaign issue. At age 11, he was caring for his three siblings and his mother, who was disabled from multiple sclerosis. After attending parochial school on scholarships, he went to Dartmouth. Eventually, he graduated near the top of his law school class at the University of Virginia.

"Growing up on welfare in Anacostia, I've seen firsthand the effects of gun violence and drug abuse," Smith said. "I can speak with greater authority on these issues than someone who has lived in a comfortable suburb removed from those threats."

Hull, meanwhile, argues that his deep roots in the Falls Church area make him uniquely qualified to be its representative. He is a graduate of Falls Church schools, including Falls Church High, and has served on local civic boards, from the Fairfax County Tree Commission to the Fairfax County Park Authority, since 1974.

"I bring to the job the understanding of the district and the people," said Hull, "because I've lived here all my life. I've served in this position for seven years, and I've shown that I know how to get things done."

The two have also staked opposing views on key emotional issues. In 1997, Hull voted against a bill that required parental notification for abortions involving minors. Hull also voted against a 1998 bill that banned what opponents term "partial birth" abortions. Smith said he would have voted for both measures.

Also in 1997, Hull voted against a bill declaring that Virginia would not recognize gay marriages conducted elsewhere in the country. Smith said that although he believes in tolerance for homosexuality, he would have voted in favor of the bill to "preserve the sanctity of marriage."

Yet despite their differences, the two share views on several issues. Both emphasize the need to strengthen the public schools. Both say they are committed to changing the funding formula in Richmond so that Northern Virginia gets more transportation funds for infrastructure improvements. And both emphasize a need for a tough stance on crime. Smith, who said he knows firsthand the effects of crime from his youth, wants to increase penalties for gang-related crimes. As a self-described moderate, he supports "reasonable" gun control and favors giving localities the power to keep guns out of their government buildings.

Hull sponsored and helped pass a law that tripled the penalty for carjacking. The delegate, who considers himself one of the General Assembly's staunchest opponents of the National Rifle Association, also co-sponsored a law that limited gun sales to one per month. But he and Smith differ over the issue of concealed weapons.

Hull voted against a 1995 measure that made it easier for Virginians to get a concealed weapons permit. And since then, he said, he has worked to tighten restrictions on possession of concealed weapons. Smith, on the other hand, said he favors the current law.

DISTRICT 38: House of Delegates

Robert D. 'Bob' Hull (D)*

Age: 44.

Residence: Falls Church.

Education: AS, Northern Virginia Community College; BS, Virginia Tech.

Occupation: Self-employed information technology consultant.

Elected offices/civic activities: Delegate since 1993; member, Virginia-Israel Advisory Board; life member, NAACP; former secretary-treasurer and board member, Fairfax County Park Authority.

Family: Married; two children.

Why should the voters elect you?

"I have lived in Fairfax County my entire life, and I care about the people I represent. I strongly support a woman's right to choose to have an abortion. A product of Fairfax County public schools, I strongly oppose school vouchers. I voted to devote state lottery proceeds to renovate schools. I fought to keep guns out of schools and recreation centers, and I authored the law tripling the minimum penalty for carjacking. This year, I helped secure $104 million in bonds for Northern Virginia road projects, and I want to dedicate one-half of state budget surpluses to transportation and relieving traffic congestion."

What would you like voters to know about you?

"My mother raised my sister and I alone after my father died. She taught me to help people and give something back to my community."

Stephen F. Smith (R)

Age: 32.

Residence: Falls Church.

Education: BA, Dartmouth College; JD, University of Virginia.

Occupation: Attorney, Sidley & Austin.

Elected offices/civic activities: Former law clerk, U.S. Supreme Court; member, Knights of Columbus; member, Fairfax County School Board Advisory Committee on Human Relations; board of regents, Congressional Schools of Virginia; former member, U.S. Naval Reserve.

Family: Married; four children.

Why should the voters elect you?

"Voters will elect me because they want common sense solutions to problems facing Virginia. They are tired of business as usual in Richmond. They agree with me that we must reduce class size, recruit first-rate teachers and restore order in the classroom. Voters also agree that we need bold action to address Northern Virginia's critical transportation needs. They know that we must provide tax relief to working families and senior citizens while increasing our investment in education and transportation. In short, voters know that my reforms are essential if we are to move Virginia forward into the next century."

What would you like voters to know about you?

"I was raised on welfare in Anacostia, but now I am seeking to become the first black Republican delegate from Northern Virginia since Reconstruction."

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