Robert A. Metry Jr., a special education teacher at Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax, is making headlines these days, becoming the top story--make that the only story--recently on the front page of his school newspaper.

"Robb Metry throws hat into political ring," said the banner headline over the spread in the Oct. 1 edition of the Valor/Dictus. "Autism teacher makes a bid for Virginia House of Delegates."

In his first run for public office, the Republican faces a formidable opponent in James F. Almand, who has held his seat in the 47th District for nearly 22 years and wields considerable power as chairman of the Courts of Justice Committee. Among his other assignments, Almand has served as chairman of the Commission on Sentence and Parole Reform, and he is a member of the Virginia Crime Commission.

Metry, who is his own campaign manager and treasurer, appears undaunted by the longtime Democratic incumbent, a lawyer who was last challenged at the polls in 1993.

"I believe in a two-party system, and I don't believe any race should go uncontested," said Metry, 39. "There should be an exchange of ideas."

Metry was energized by fellow Republican Mike Lane's upset victory this year in a special election for a seat on what was an all-Democratic Arlington County Board. Metry said he is confident that he, too, can convince voters that it is time for a change.

Almand, 51, is not going on the offensive, preferring to run on the record he has built during his many terms in office.

Among his achievements in Richmond, Almand said, was 1993 legislation to limit the purchase of handguns to one a month, curtailing the state's reputation as the chief gunrunning state on the East Coast.

Metry believes that the current legislative delegation is not fighting hard enough for the 47th District, which comprises parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties. He said he would work hard to get the two counties a fairer share of state tax money to help pay for education, transportation and other infrastructure needs.

Although he is a first-time candidate, Metry says he is not a novice to politics, having helped out in state and national campaigns. He also has covered some campaigns--during his 10 years in television news, primarily at stations in South Dakota and Kentucky.

With legislators struggling to build more schools, fill them with more and better-qualified teachers and raise academic standards, Metry said that being in the teaching profession would make him an asset in the decision-making process.

If he is elected, Metry said, a substitute teacher would be brought in to fill his shoes when the legislature is in session, an accommodation made for others in similar situations.

Almand, who primarily handles wills and estates in his law practice to preserve enough time for his legislative duties, said he still enjoys the challenge of finding ways to fix societal problems. His ability to do that has grown over the years, he said.

"The system is based on seniority and experience," he said.

If he is sent back to Richmond, Almand said, he would push for requiring trigger-locks on guns and for raising the legal age for handgun purchases from 18 to 21. He was instrumental in requiring any age limit at all, he said.

And Almand is eager to get back to work.

"The voters have demonstrated their faith in me by reelecting me," Almand said. "I've been an effective representative for Arlington."

DISTRICT 47: House of Delegates

James F. Almand (D)*

Age: 51.

Residence: Arlington.

Education: BA, William and Mary; JD, Marshall-Wythe School of Law.

Occupation: Self-employed lawyer.

Elected offices/civic activities: Delegate since 1978; former Arlington assistant prosecutor; chairman, Courts of Justice Committee, House of Delegates; member, Finance Committee, House of Delegates; co-chairman, Arlington Affordable Housing Task Force; Virginia Crime Commission.

Family: Married; three children.

Why should the voters elect you?

"I have provided effective representation for the citizens of the 47th District for nearly 22 years. I have championed legislation limiting handgun purchases and increasing crime victims' and witnesses' rights. I successfully sponsored a tax credit for those making their homes accessible to persons with disabilities. I pledge to continue working for more funding for school construction and to lock in lottery revenue for education. A substantial part of Virginia's budget surplus and tobacco settlement funds should be used for transportation bonds to meet our pressing transit and road needs. All of the food tax should be eliminated now."

What would you like voters to know about you?

"My legislation limited the purchase of handguns to one a month thus ending Virginia's reputation as the chief gunrunning state on the East Coast."

Web site: www.arlingtondemocrats.org

E-mail address: almand47@doubled.com

Robert A. Metry Jr. (R)

Age: 39.

Residence: Arlington.

Education: BS, MA, Ohio University.

Occupation: Special education teacher, Fairfax County public schools.

Elected offices/civic activities: Board member, Arlington-East Falls Church Civic Association; Arlingtonians for a Better County; Fairfax County Federation of Teachers.

Family: Married.

Why should the voters elect you?

"I will be a delegate that can work more effectively with state government to bring Arlington and Fairfax counties a fairer share of state tax dollars to pay for important school and infrastructure projects and to provide adequate pension programs for Arlington public safety employees. As a public school teacher I am acutely aware of the need for adequate funding for our schools, and can bring a unique perspective where education issues are concerned."

What would you like voters to know about you?

"I am a public high school special education teacher working with students diagnosed with autism. I am a former broadcast journalist, a homeowner and a resident of Arlington County."

Web site: www.gopmajority.com/metry.htm

E-mail address: ramjr@erols.com