Ross B. Bell has come up with an idea that he believes could help solve Northern Virginia's traffic problems--and improve air quality, reduce fuel consumption and enhance family life.

As he tries to win a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates, Bell is pushing for a telecommuter tax credit, a proposal that would give a tax break to both employers and employees when workers arrange to work out of their homes, keeping pollution-emitting, gas-guzzling cars off the roadways.

"I want to make a difference and push new ideas," said Bell, 28. "I want to be out there."

Bell, a Republican, is making his second attempt to unseat Democrat Marian A. Van Landingham, who has represented the 45th District for 18 years and has become a fixture in Alexandria.

"I don't think he has any record of achievement or commitment to Alexandria," said Van Landingham, 62, an artist who founded the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Old Town. "I'm well known in the community. We're a good fit, the community and I."

Bell, who received one-third of the votes two years ago, realizes he is fighting an uphill battle. But he is encouraged by the response and contributions he has received from people since his first run for the House seat.

Bell, who works for the State of Texas on Capitol Hill, believes Van Landingham has squandered her seniority in Richmond, particularly her powerful position as chairman of the transportation subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee.

"How can you sit as chair and not bring home the bacon?" Bell asked. "All her legislation that passes is dealing with art--which is great--but not transportation. Her seniority and leadership are not being used for Alexandria's benefit."

Recently married, Bell hopes to raise a family in Alexandria, and he is concerned that the community is being overdeveloped. He would like to help craft state laws that would preserve open spaces and offer incentives to businesses to consolidate their properties on smaller lots.

He said it would be premature to put a dollar figure on his proposal for a telecommuting tax credit. But he believes it could help the region's traffic woes, while at the same time reduce harmful exhaust emissions.

If elected, Bell said, he would quit his job to avoid any potential conflicts of interest and most likely would do some consulting work. He works as natural resources policy director for the Texas Office of State-Federal Relations.

"If I win, I take a pay cut," Bell said. "But it's not about the money. I'm not saying I'll walk in there with the same amount of clout, but I'll walk in there fighting for Alexandria."

Told that Bell says she has not fought hard enough for transportation money, Van Landingham said he may not fully grasp how things work in Richmond.

"If he's saying that, he doesn't understand the process," said Van Landingham, a painter who lives in Old Town with her three miniature dachshunds. "Most of the transportation [allocation] is done through formula."

Among her achievements, Van Landingham cites reducing class sizes through the Omnibus Education Act of 1995, putting more technology in schools and promoting programs for at-risk youths. She also has helped to establish a formula that provides school systems with money to help pay the costs of educating students for whom English is a second language.

She said she hopes to return for another term to continue "trying to fund the things that matter. Every year, you're struggling to better fund good causes."

DISTRICT 45: House of Delegates

Marian A. Van Landingham (D)*

Age: 62.

Residence: Alexandria.

Education: BA, MA, political science, Emory University.

Occupation: Legislator and professional artist.

Elected offices/civic activities: Delegate since 1982; former president, Torpedo Factory Artists Association; former president, Upper King Street Civic Association; former vice chairman, Alexandria Democratic Committee.

Family: Single.

Why should the voters elect you?

"I am an experienced legislator with a long track record of accomplishment for Virginia and constituents in Alexandria and Fairfax County. I have been the chief sponsor of 160 successful bills and resolutions, over 140 successful budget amendments, the Omnibus Education Act of 1995 and the current study of the Standards of Learning and ESL students. I serve on the Education Committee and the public education and the health and human services subcommittees of Appropriations. I chair the Appropriations transportation subcommittee and I am co-chairman of the Privileges and Elections Committee."

What would you like voters to know about you?

"I combine a thorough knowledge of my district with a proven ability to be effective in Richmond, helped by my position on key committees, particularly Appropriations and Education."

Ross B. Bell (R)

Age: 28.

Residence: Alexandria.

Education: BS, Arizona State University; MPA, George Washington University.

Occupation: Natural resources policy director, Texas Office of State-Federal Relations.

Elected offices/civic activities: Member, City of Alexandria Environmental Policy Commission; member, City of Alexandria Waterfront Committee; member, Alexandria Chamber of Commerce.

Family: Married.

Why should the voters elect you?

"Alexandria is a community celebrating 250 years of continual and exceptional growth, but as the next 250 years approaches, the city and the 45th District face serious challenges in balancing their needs in transportation, environmental protection and economic development. We need fresh ideas to address these growing problems. As a start, I have already proposed a telecommuter tax credit. The credit would provide a tax incentive to companies and employees to foster telecommuting, reducing traffic, enhancing air quality, providing more time with families and expanding tax relief."

What would you like voters to know about you?

"I led an effort by over 100 state legislators to develop a model electric-industry restructuring bill that has been adopted in over 20 states."

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