North Arlington voters in the 48th District have a clear choice when they go to the polls Tuesday to elect their delegate to the General Assembly.

In this corner, there is the mild-mannered incumbent, Robert H. Brink (D), a former Capitol Hill lawyer who likes to chat about health care resolutions and loopholes in state laws.

In this corner, meet S. John Massoud, a brash taxicab company executive who left community college 15 years ago to go into business with his father.

Brink, who captured 58 percent of the vote against Massoud two years ago when he was first elected, started his Arlington activism by running the 1988 and 1996 school bond campaigns. He rarely discusses his opponent.

Massoud, who said he had knocked on 4,000 doors by the end of September, talks about his opponent a great deal.

He said he hears the same theme over and over from voters.

"No one knows who Delegate Brink is," he said. At the same time, in Richmond, Brink has made a reputation for intense partisanship, he added.

"Brink spent a lot of time on TV calling people extremists, saying Republicans are trying to pollute the environment," Massoud said. "He's considered to be the most partisan person on the Democratic side in Virginia. . . . Any bill he tries to introduce is dead on arrival."

But Democrats defend Brink's record. Charlene Bickford, chairman of the Arlington Democratic Party, said Brink is "not any kind of flame-thrower. . . . He's very methodical about the way he gets things done."

According to Brink, "There are very few issues in Richmond that break down on partisan lines."

If elected, Massoud said, his first priority would be introducing legislation to allow patients to sue health-maintenance organizations within the fixed liability limit of $1.5 million. He also would work to remove a state code exemption that he says denies the county's police officers "proper benefits." And he said he would work for more school funding to finance newer textbooks and smaller class size.

Massoud, 34, is passionate about his candidacy and his ideas, said Henriette Warfield, chairman of the Arlington Republican Party. In contrast, she said, Brink is a "wimp" and a "cookie-cutter candidate."

"He doesn't go down to Richmond to light the world on fire," she said.

Brink, 52, said he had two legislative successes in Richmond. One was pushing through an amendment so that anyone bringing a knife longer than three inches into a school can be criminally prosecuted. The other was expanding the list of crimes for which someone could be barred from working in a day-care center. Among the crimes added to the list, Brink said, was arson.

Given more time, he would work for more high-tech courses at community colleges and would try to solve the area's transportation problems.

The 48th is the most competitive of the three House of Delegates districts in Arlington, though it still leans Democratic. Mark Warner (D) lost the district by a slim margin in his 1996 bid for the U.S. Senate. President Clinton won it with 58 percent of the vote in 1996.

On at least one issue, the candidates are alike. Both support abortion rights and are critical of Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) for his intervention in the Hugh Finn case, saying they support right-to-die positions.

As of the end of August, Brink and Massoud had raised nearly equal amounts--about $30,000 each. But Brink had outspent Massoud nearly twofold--$11,700, compared with $6,300.

DISTRICT 48: House of Delegates

Robert H. Brink (D)*

Age: 52.

Residence: Arlington.

Education: BA, Monmouth College; JD, College of William and Mary.

Occupation: Legislative consultant.

Elected offices/civic activities: Arlington Commission on the Aging; board member, American Heart Association, Arlington division; Friends of George Mason University, Arlington campus; Model General Assembly Committee, Virginia YMCA; Horizon Institute Council.

Family: Married; two children.

Why should the voters elect you?

"In my first term as delegate, I believe I have shown I understand my constituents' concerns and can translate those concerns into sound public policy. I have tackled issues of importance to Virginia, from school safety to patients' rights to quality child care. I'm proud of this record, but know that more remains to be done. We need to maintain Virginia's first-class education system, from kindergarten to graduate school; secure adequate health care for all Virginians, from the children of the working poor to the elderly; and promote the growth of our region's high-tech economy. That's why I'm seeking reelection."

What would you like voters to know about you?

"Serving as the 48th District's delegate is more than an honor: For me, it is also an enormous pleasure. I am grateful for this opportunity."

Web site: www.vademocrats.org/99/brink

E-mail address: rbrink@erols.com

S. John Massoud (R)

Age: 34.

Residence: Arlington.

Education: Attended Northern Virginia Community College.

Occupation: Vice president, Arlington Blue Top Cabs.

Elected offices/civic activities: Delegate, Committee of 100; Arlington County Civic Federation; Mothers Against Drunk Driving; Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association; board member, Northern Virginia Community College Educational Foundation.

Family: Single.

Why should the voters elect you?

"I am running for the House of Delegates to bring back a sense of responsibility and respectability to the Arlington delegation. I want to work on the four following issues: HMO reform; better benefits for public safety officers and teachers; education; and transportation. In addition, I want to bring back a lost sense of civility to politics in Richmond."

What would you like voters to know about you?

"I am a native Arlingtonian who has lived my entire life inside the 48th District or on its very borders."

Web site: www.jmassoud48va.org

E-mail address: sjm48va@aol.com