In his second try at defeating longtime incumbent legislator Roger J. McClure (R), Democrat James E. Mitchell III is focused on the issue of guns in schools.

To that end, Mitchell has sent to voters in the 67th legislative district of western Fairfax County a brochure that features the photograph of a deer caught in the cross hairs. The caption reads: "Delegate Roger McClure believes hunting is so important that children should be allowed to bring their guns to school--so they won't waste a minute before heading out to go hunting after school."

Like several other Democratic challengers vying for votes in this year's General Assembly elections, Mitchell has taken his Republican opponent to task for supporting a measure that would have allowed students to keep guns locked in their car trunks in order to go hunting after class.

McClure, 55, a lawyer, has called Mitchell's "attack" a distortion of the facts and said his opponent is misinterpreting the vote and trying to divert attention from McClure's record. He pointed out, for instance, that he had voted to support a mandatory five-year sentence for anyone who brought a firearm onto school grounds with the intent to use it and mandatory expulsion for students who bring weapons to school.

"It's outrageous. It's scare tactics," said McClure, who defeated Mitchell two years ago with 56 percent of the vote. "He's just doing this because he doesn't have a program for transportation and education. It's a response to what we've been able to do in the last several years: returning the lottery proceeds to the schools, cutting the car tax, cutting the food tax, increased standards in the schools."

Mitchell, 41, who lives in Centreville with his wife and three children, scoffs at the suggestion he is "fear-mongering."

"This legislation was not insignificant because it was sending a message, and it was the wrong message," Mitchell said of the measure to allow teenage hunters to lock their guns in their cars on school property. "It was sending the message that there were certain circumstances when we'll tolerate the possession of guns at school."

Lawmakers ultimately agreed to bar guns from school grounds but allowed school boards to make exceptions.

McClure, who took office in 1991, is focused this year on transportation. Since he was elected, McClure has pushed to get more funding to improve the intersection of Routes 28 and 29, complete the Fairfax County Parkway and extend Metrorail from Vienna to Centreville. If reelected, he said, he will continue the push to expand Interstate 66 and encourage a long-term, regional plan to alleviate traffic congestion.

In 1995, questions over unpaid federal employee withholding taxes threatened to derail McClure's candidacy. The issue resurfaced during the 1997 race between McClure and Mitchell, who hammered the issue but lost the race.

Earlier this month, the Republican leader in the House of Delegates and other legislative colleagues of McClure's agreed to co-sign a commercial loan to help McClure consolidate and pay off the remaining $80,000 tax debt.

Mitchell has called the arrangement a conflict of interest and an "embarrassment" to the people of McClure's district.

Mitchell, the owner of a real estate title company, said he first entered politics because he was frustrated with school crowding. At the time, Mitchell said he wanted to see more funding for school construction and more state money to hire more teachers. Two years later, he sees the same needs.

"In fact, I think we've gone back in the other direction," he said.

DISTRICT 67: House of Delegates

Roger J. McClure (R)*

Age: 55.

Residence: Centreville.

Education: BA, Ohio State University; MA, Northwestern University; JD, Ohio State University School of Law.

Occupation: Attorney.

Elected offices/civic activities: Delegate since 1992; board of directors, Dulles Area Transportation Association; board of directors, Northern Virginia Community Foundation; member, Chantilly Optimists.

Family: Single.

Why should the voters elect you?

"I am fighting for quality education by returning lottery proceeds; funding for school construction; improving school safety; maintaining high academic standards and disciplined classrooms, with a focus on core subjects such as reading and math; lowering taxes through removal of the car tax, state food tax and increasing personal exemption; strengthening families and protecting values; and more road and rail funding for Northern Virginia and Centreville, to rebuild Route 28/29 and put transportation improvements on a fast track. I helped pass the historic welfare reform. I want to make safe communities a priority by cracking down on youth gangs. I fought to abolish parole and establish truth in sentencing."

What would you like voters to know about you?

"I am a former U.S. Army lieutenant and received a bronze star in Vietnam; co-chairman of the Militia and Police Committee; former federal attorney, Federal Trade Commission; and member, Truro Episcopal Church."

Web site:

E-mail address:

James E. Mitchell III (D)

Age: 41.

Residence: Centreville.

Education: BA, State University of New York at Albany; JD, American University.

Occupation: President and owner, Metropolitan Title and Escrow Company

Elected offices/civic activities: Chairman, Sully District, Boy Scouts of America; member, Land Use Committee, West Fairfax Citizens Association; member, Dulles Area Chamber of Commerce.

Family: Married; three children.

Why should the voters elect you?

"If elected, I will support efforts to keep guns away from schools and recreation centers by supporting sensible legislation designed to keep our children safe. I will address our transportation problems by voting to use the budget surplus and bonds secured by revenue from the recordation tax and the tobacco settlement to fix the [Route] 28/29 intersection and build the Western Bypass so traffic does not ruin our quality of life. I am dedicated to securing our fair share of funds from Richmond to invest in education, specifically to reduce overcrowding and class sizes in our schools."

What would you like voters to know about you?

"I live and own a business in Centreville. I have three children in school, and I serve my community as a regional Boy Scouts leader."