The incumbent in the 40th House District race has served four terms and describes himself as a Reagan-style Republican who reflects the values of his constituents and has fought for them.

His Democratic challenger calls himself a conservative and charges that his opponent is a right-wing extremist who has accomplished little in his eight years in Richmond.

The race between Republican James K. "Jay" O'Brien Jr., 47, and Democrat Gordon K. Meriwether III, 51, has revolved largely around O'Brien's record, and that is nothing new. The Democrats in Fairfax County have for years tried unsuccessfully to lure voters away from O'Brien by focusing on his voting record in the General Assembly.

This year, they hope Meriwether's self-described conservative policy positions will convince enough Republican voters to cross party lines to win the election for the Democrats.

But from the Republicans' perspective, O'Brien has solidified the 40th District--which includes Clifton, southwest Fairfax and areas of Centreville and Burke--into a safe Republican seat.

There are many fundamental differences between the two candidates. On the issue of abortion, for example, Meriwether favors abortion rights while O'Brien opposes abortion rights and in 1998 supported a bill that banned "partial birth" abortions. O'Brien in that same year also voted against a bill to reinstate mandatory sex education in the public schools and voted to support a bill that banned physician-assisted suicide. O'Brien also introduced a bill this year that would have given low-income students vouchers to attend private schools. Meriwether said his votes would have been diametrically opposed to O'Brien's on all those issues.

Both men agree on the need to improve regional transportation. But Meriwether said he doesn't think making roads wider will solve the problem. Rather, he would create more bus and rail service across the county to connect the Reston area with Springfield.

He also argues that the state needs to establish a Northern Virginia transportation "czar" to oversee how to implement solutions to gridlock.

O'Brien introduced legislation last session to study bringing more commuter bus service into western Fairfax County. He hopes that by next year, some of the findings of the studies now underway will be implemented. He also has said that his priorities include the finishing of the Fairfax County Parkway and the widening of Route 123 and Braddock Road.

Meriwether, a vice president at a Reston-based information management company, has attacked O'Brien for being beholden to groups such as the Christian Coalition. The Virginia Christian Coalition has put out a "scorecard" that shows O'Brien voting with the group's position 100 percent of the time on key votes in 1998 and 1999.

"His record is an embarrassment," said Meriwether, who says he's a more moderate alternative. "He is absolutely an extremist under sheep's clothing. He does what he is told--and is packaged by the Christian Coalition."

O'Brien, a West Point graduate who was a Reagan administration appointee in the Department of Health and Human Services and who now owns an office furniture business, brushes off that criticism. He is not a member of the Christian Coalition, he said, and considers himself a conservative mainstream Republican. As a business owner and a father, he said, he understands and represents the views of the average 40th District resident. And he's proud of laws he has worked to pass such as Virginia's "Megan's Law," which notifies parents when a convicted sex offender moves nearby.

"I think I very well represent my constituents," O'Brien said. "I have the same concerns being a dad--I'm being pulled in a million directions just like my constituents."

DISTRICT 40: House of Delegates

Gordon K. Meriwether III (D)

Age: 51.

Residence: Fairfax Station.

Education: BA, University of Alabama; MBA, George Washington University.

Occupation: Program manager; vice president, DynCorp Information Enterprise Technology, Inc.

Elected offices/civic activities: Vice chairman, Fairfax County Professional Technical Studies Advisory Committee; board of directors, Leadership Fairfax; Rotary International; captain, U.S. Naval Reserve; lay leader, Messiah United Methodist Church.

Family: Married; two children.

Why should the voters elect you?

"I will work to ensure the Commonwealth invests in our future--not lives off our past! I will work tirelessly to increase state funding for Fairfax County school construction and renovation, and get our kids out of trailers! I will labor to resolve the transportation mess in Fairfax County and, in particular, within the 40th District. This means increased funding from the state for county transportation improvements, smart planning and development of new modes of county transportation, and leadership, not excuses. I will drive to increase investment in GMU and NVCC and establish tax credits for work force training and research and development."

What would you like voters to know about you?

"We need determined leadership in Richmond. I have proven myself at every opportunity as a dedicated and capable leader. But my family is my strength."

Web site: www.gm4delegate.com

E-mail address: meriwether@erols.com

James K. 'Jay' O'Brien Jr. (R)*

Age: 47.

Residence: Clifton.

Education: BS, U.S. Military Academy at West Point; MPA, University of Oklahoma.

Occupation: Self-employed.

Elected offices/civic activities: Reserve Officers Association; Fairfax Rotary Club; American Legion; Knights of Columbus; LTC, Army Reserve.

Family: Married; five children.

Why should the voters elect you?

"For eight years, I have been honored to bring my conservative values to this office. Since my graduation from West Point, I have sought public service in the Reagan administration and now as a delegate. As the father of five children and a businessman, I reflect the values and concerns of my constituents."

What would you like voters to know about you?

"For eight years, I have worked for accountability in education, managed growth, no tax increases and a transportation system that reflects driving patterns and future needs."

E-mail address: delegatejayobrien@msn.com