Republican Patrick A. Kelley is asking the voters to put a doctor in the House.

The 52-year-old neurologist took a leave of absence from his medical practice to campaign full time for a seat representing the 53rd District in the House of Delegates.

He is challenging Del. James M. "Jim" Scott, a Democrat running for his fifth term in the district, which includes Merrifield and parts of Oakton and McLean. Scott, 61, an executive with the Inova Health System, which runs Inova Fairfax Hospital, also served for 14 years on the Fairfax Board of Supervisors.

"I decided several years ago that it was important to have a doctor in the House of Delegates to lead the discussion on health-care issues," Kelley said.

Kelley, who went to Richmond during this year's General Assembly session, said he was troubled to hear legislators admit they couldn't decipher the health-care bills they were discussing.

"I listened to a House committee discuss a human-cloning bill," he said. "Four out of seven members said they didn't understand the terminology. When it comes to health care, the devil is in the details. . . . A person really needs to understand the dynamics of the doctor-to-patient relationship to be able to extend that to health-care legislation."

Scott, who first took office in 1991, ran unopposed in 1997. This year, Scott said, his campaign is focused primarily on issues relating to transportation, education and the creation of safer schools and communities.

"I think we've made some progress in each area, but there's a great deal more to be done," said Scott, who has supported legislation that dedicates lottery proceeds to education and has pushed to return tax dollars to localities to fund some major transportation projects.

This year, Scott, who lives in Merrifield, worked to speed along local road projects, including recent improvements in the Tysons Corner area, and said he wants to push for the expansion of Metrorail and of mass transit to Dulles International Airport.

Kelley, who has lived in Northern Virginia since 1988 and resides in the Fairfax section of Falls Church, blames much of the area's traffic congestion and school crowding on unchecked growth. He said area lawmakers need to slow commercial and residential development until school construction and the expansion of Metrorail can catch up. If lawmakers are going to improve transportation, Kelley said, they need to act now.

"If someone comes to the emergency room with a problem, we don't set up a committee to address it," Kelley said. "We take care of it and do something about the problem. That would be my philosophy in the General Assembly. . . . We need to begin to start the process."

Both candidates say they're concerned about school crowding. Kelley said he would like to see more teachers hired to reduce class sizes and to have lottery proceeds used to build more schools. Scott said he intends to push for increased teacher salaries and for money from the state's general fund to speed up school construction and renovation and get Fairfax County schoolchildren out of the nearly 650 classroom trailers now in use.

Scott also has supported public safety legislation, including a bill that increases the penalties for convictions of certain offenses involving the possession of a firearm on school grounds with the intent to use it.

DISTRICT 53 House of Delegates

Patrick A. Kelley (R)

Age: 52.

Residence: Falls Church.

Education: BA, Knox College; MD, Loyola University.

Occupation: Neurologist, Fairfax Hospital; assistant clinical professor of neurology, George Washington University Hospital; on leave from medical practice for campaign.

Elected offices/civic activities: Member, Greater Falls Church Chamber of Commerce; member, Fairfax County Medical Society.

Family: Single.

Why should the voters elect you?

"After going to medical school to make a difference in people's lives, I am now committed to improving the quality of life in Northern Virginia. During the past decade, I have witnessed unprecedented growth in the region, which has led to traffic stagnation and school overcrowding. Too often, many of today's politicians avoid making hard choices. That's why, year after year, little is done about transportation and quality education. As a physician, I'm trained to analyze problems and solve them quickly. I will put those same skills to work in the House of Delegates."

What would you like voters to know about you?

"I enjoy collecting old books, especially those pertaining to Thomas Jefferson and Virginia. I am engaged to Lisa Sinrod, a private-practice attorney."

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James M. 'Jim' Scott (D)*

Age: 61.

Residence: Fairfax.

Education: BA, MA, University of North Carolina; MPA, George Mason University.

Occupation: Assistant vice president, Inova Health System.

Elected offices/civic activities: 1991 Fairfax County Citizen of the Year; 1994 Greater Merrifield Business Association's Public Servant of the Year; recipient, Northern Virginia Technology Tech Ten award; board of directors, Fairfax Partnership for Youth; board of directors, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

Family: Married; two children.

Why should the voters elect you?

"Building bipartisan support to reduce congestion, improving our schools and keeping our neighborhoods safe are my priorities. I have sponsored or co-sponsored measures authorizing $471 million for Northern Virginia transportation improvements; initiating state aid for school construction and renovation; expanding tax relief for seniors; andimmunizing all children against hepatitis B. I opposed Governor Gilmore's interference in private medical decisions (i.e., Finn case). I support dedicating all lottery profits to education, mass transit to Tysons and Centreville and giving localities more tools to address the effects of rapid growth and the authority to prohibit guns in public buildings."

What would you like voters to know about you?

"With two daughters who attended public schools, I support reducing class size, increasing accountability, expanding quality child care and making technology accessible to all students."

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