If Republican challenger Christopher T. "Chris" Craig succeeds in thwarting the aspirations of Del. Vivian E. Watts (D) for a sixth term in the General Assembly, it won't be because he has staked out new issues in their 39th District House race.

Both squarely agree that the most critical matters in the contest--a three-way election featuring Watts, Craig and an elusive independent named C.W. "Levi" Levy--are transportation and education.

The former issue is a matter of long-standing interest to Watts, 59, of Annandale, who was elected three times to the House of Delegates in the 1980s before leaving it to serve in the Cabinet of then-Gov. Gerald L. Baliles (D) as secretary of transportation and public policy. She was returned to the House four years ago.

"The transportation needs are tremendous," she said. "Transportation has been ignored for a decade. I take it a little personally."

As a delegate in 1985, Watts was the point person in a successful drive to increase Northern Virginia's share of state road funding. But since the Baliles administration, she said, the last three governors have failed to raise the funds needed to keep pace with the state's burgeoning demands for expanded roads and transit.

To close that gap, she said she supports a proposal to raise the gasoline tax for Northern Virginians by at least 5 cents and ideally 8 cents a gallon. "It's commensurate with what our needs are," she said. She has pressed for a regional referendum on whether to boost the gasoline tax.

Craig, 35, an attorney from Springfield specializing in law concerning senior citizens, is critical of the incumbent for advocating a gas tax increase.

"I put the gas tax at the bottom of the list of things to do," Craig said. "Right now, I don't see it."

Instead, he urged other measures to raise money for transportation, including borrowing money and repaying it from the state's general fund. He also echoed proposals by Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) to accelerate Virginia's receipt of federal transportation funds already in the pipeline and introduce electronic means for collecting fuel taxes, which could yield more revenue.

The region, Craig said, also needs to draft a more detailed plan for setting road and transit priorities.

Levy, 67, a self-employed publisher and perennial contender from Fairfax who does not have a listed telephone number and could not be reached for comment, expressed his views on transportation two years ago when he challenged Watts for her House seat. He said at the time that he supported building a Potomac River suspension bridge and tunnel near Fort Belvoir at a cost he estimated in the billions. He also advocated higher taxes.

On education, Craig said he would retain Virginia's Standards of Learning (SOL) exams, which hold individual schools accountable for the success of their students, but revise the nature of the tests. For instance, he urged they make greater use of short-answer and essay responses.

The challenger said he supports increased state funding for school construction and hiring more teachers to reduce class sizes, and he said Watts has given short shrift to expanding the ranks of teachers.

Watts said she supports using proceeds from the state lottery and general funds for physical improvements to schools, such as renovating facilities and purchasing computers, as well as to hire staff to reduce class sizes. She said she has serious concerns about the SOL tests, questioning whether they adequately measure student performance and the success of schools.

DISTRICT 39: House of Delegates

Christopher T. 'Chris' Craig (R)

Age: 35.

Residence: Springfield.

Education: BA, State University of New York at Binghamton; MPA, State University of New York at Albany; JD, George Mason University School of Law.

Occupation: Attorney, Herge Sparks & Christopher.

Elected offices/civic activities: President, Danbury Forest Community Association; Moot Court judge and mentoring program participant, George Mason University School of Law; Fairfax Bar Association.

Family: Married.

Why should the voters elect you?

"The last election of the 20th century and the first General Assembly of the 21st century call for new leadership-- candidates trained and sensitive to the modern economy. I represent the new leadership in Northern Virginia with my vision for a reformed, modern tax code which is responsive to today's dynamic economy, coupled with my dedication to a Northern Virginia community that embraces our senior neighbors. Quality of life is the key to my vision: A thriving economy does not ensure that we are striving for the highest standards. Leaders with an eye toward quality can."

What would you like voters to know about you?

"I believe that through leadership and personal dedication, Springfield and Annandale can return to that hometown community it once was. I will listen and lead."

E-mail address: KZCC1990@aol.com

C.W. 'Levi' Levy (I)

Age: 67.

Residence: Fairfax.

Education: AA, Northern Virginia Community College; BA, George Mason University.

Occupation: Publisher, Levite Chronicle newspaper.

Elected Offices/Civic Activities: None.

Family: Single.

Why should the voters elect you?

"Except for one passion, Watts is quite nice. To tax you and tax you is what's on Watts's mind. Vote Levi Levy. Leave Watts behind."

What would you like voters to know about you?

"I have taken a stand for affirmative action, for health care for children of illegal aliens and for free grants for two years of computer training at local community colleges for anyone able to pass a basic algebra examination. I am against all types of illegal drugs, have never tried marijuana or cocaine and I don't trust anyone who has to be in control of the atomic retaliation button who has [tried them] in his younger day."

Vivian E. Watts (D)*

Age: 59.

Residence: Annandale.

Education: BA, University of Michigan.

Occupation: Executive director, Fairfax Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).

Elected offices/civic activities: Delegate since 1995 (also 1982-1985); former state secretary of transportation and public safety; committee chairman, Virginia Chamber of Commerce; president, League of Women Voters; president, Wakefield Forest Elementary PTA.

Family: Married; two children.

Why should the voters elect you?

"The Top 10 reasons: No. 10, strong public school supporter, fighting for smaller classes and fair share of state construction funds; No. 9, advocate for affordable access to health care; No. 8, defender of equitable tax relief for Fairfax; No. 7, valuable citizen voice as one of only two non-lawyers on Courts Committee; No. 6, introduced gun show background checks legislation; No. 5, outlawed date-rape drug; No. 4, crafted law to prosecute pedophiles who use the Internet; No. 3, increased Metro funding fourfold and negotiated VRE right-of-way; No. 2, doubled Fairfax's share of road funds and, as former transportation secretary, was a vigorous spokesperson for Northern Virginia; and No. 1, has the experience and proven dedication to be effective."

What would you like voters to know about you?

"My marriage began in college and now includes grandchildren. We love skiing, whitewater rafting and wilderness camping--although our air mattresses are thicker!"

E-mail address: vwatts@erols.com