To the casual observer, both candidates for Fairfax County sheriff appear to have sparkling resumes: Sheriff Carl R. Peed (R) has run the department since 1990 and was chief deputy for 10 years before that; former lieutenant Stanley G. Barry (D) served for 19 years in a variety of posts, most recently as head of training for deputies and police recruits.

But look closer, both candidates say, and voters will find their opponent unqualified and unfit to run the 536-employee force. As the election nears, Barry and Peed continue to launch character attacks on the other, leaving voters to sort out whose mud deserves to stick.

Both men bring political backgrounds to the race. Peed, 52, was appointed sheriff after Wayne Huggins resigned in 1990, and has won election twice since. Barry, 41, son of state Sen. Warren E. Barry (R-Fairfax), quickly nailed down endorsements from the Fairfax police officers, sheriffs' deputies and firefighters unions, and the Northern Virginia Fraternal Order of Police.

And both candidates were Republicans. At least, Barry was one until he made it known late last year that he intended to challenge Peed, who responded by denying Barry administrative leave to run his campaign. (County employees may not run for political office unless given leave by their supervisor.) Barry filed as a Democrat in May, Peed immediately fired him, and the fight was on.

Within weeks, a series of miscues provided Barry with material for attacks on Peed. In May, two convicted felons broke out of the Fairfax County jail, the first escapes during Peed's tenure. Later that month, three African American deputies sued Peed and the department in federal court, making numerous allegations of racial harassment and discrimination. Peed had fired two of the deputies for disobeying him, but this summer the county's Civil Service Commission ordered him to reinstate both.

Barry tore into the sheriff, holding him responsible for the jailbreak and claiming that morale among the rank and file was low. He also noted that a long-planned jail addition was two years behind schedule, though Peed blamed the contractor.

In a League of Women Voters debate in September, Peed shot back, alleging that Barry had "a number of ethical violations and incidents of misconduct" during his 19 years as a deputy. In a subsequent interview, Peed outlined his allegations against Barry, which included unreported traffic tickets and an alleged forgery, as well as Barry's lack of a college diploma.

"I'm talking about my qualifications," Peed said. "He does not have the education or executive training or the experience of the positions that I've held."

Peed has attended the FBI Academy in Quantico, a frequent training ground for police executives; was chosen Correctional Administrator of the Year by the American Jail Association; and recently has implemented new high-tech fingerprint and photo scanning systems.

Peed said he also had developed innovative and award-winning programs in work-release, community service, forensics, and diagnostic and treatment services, as well as standards to improve the professionalism of his staff.

The sheriff's department devotes most of its resources to operating the county jail, but deputies also serve summonses and subpoenas, and guard the courtrooms in the county courthouse.

One of Peed's more sensational allegations was that Barry had a drunken driving conviction in North Carolina that wasn't disclosed to his superiors. Barry said he was convicted of the lesser charge of reckless driving while drinking, and that his superiors, including Peed, were well aware of it.

Peed also said Barry illegally changed the amount of a check written by the Sheriffs' Association, an employee group, and produced a letter from the association that called for an investigation. In response, Barry produced a subsequent letter from the association saying that he had explained himself and no further action was needed.

Barry pointed out that his employment record was nearly spotless and that he spent the last several years teaching recruits at the training academy. "If I wasn't qualified," he said, "why would I be in charge of all the training for the police and the deputies?"

On the issue of training, Barry noted that Peed never attended the basic six-week law enforcement training academy now required of all deputies. Peed said the course wasn't required when he was hired in 1974, and that he was responsible for making it mandatory.

CONSTITUTIONAL OFFICES: COUNTY SHERIFF

S.G. 'Stan' Barry (D)

Age: 41.

Residence: Centreville.

Education: Graduate of Institute of Police Technology and Management; Federal Law Enforcement Training Center; Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Academy.

Occupation: Former deputy sheriff lieutenant, Fairfax County.

Elected offices/civic activities: Former three-term president, Fairfax County Sheriffs Association; two-time recipient, outstanding performance recognition, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors; 1999 recipient, Meritorious Achievement Award, Fairfax County police; selected to teach a leadership class to sheriff's office supervisors.

Family: Married; two children.

Why should the voters elect you?

"As deputy sheriff for 19 years in the Fairfax sheriff's office, I am intimately familiar with the operations and problems within the department. Although I believe that most of us view running for public office as a basic right, I was fired as a result of announcing my candidacy for sheriff. Times have changed, and it is time for new leadership. Although the issues are too lengthy to discuss in this forum, I believe that it should speak volumes that the public-safety employee coalitions in Fairfax--police, fire and sheriff--are endorsing my candidacy."

What would you like voters to know about you?

"A lifelong resident of Fairfax County, I have two daughters, Rachel, 10, and Caroline, 8."

Web site: www.fairfaxsheriff.com

E-mail address: stanbarry@aol.com

Carl R. Peed (R)*

Age: 52.

Residence: Fairfax.

Education: BS, University of North Carolina at Pembroke; Criminal Justice Administration certificate program, University of Virginia/FBI National Academy; Senior Executive Institute certificate program, University of Virginia.

Occupation: Sheriff, Fairfax County.

Elected offices/civic activities: Sheriff since 1990; chairman, Community Criminal Justice Board; board of directors, Leadership Fairfax; chairman, Criminal Justice Information Redesign Steering Committee; member, Law Enforcement and Correctional Technology Council, U.S. Department of Justice.

Family: Married; three children.

Why should the voters elect you?

"I have 25 years of experience in the Fairfax County sheriff's office. I have a proven record of leadership in law enforcement and the community. I was selected as Correctional Administrator of the Year by the American Jail Association and a recipient of the Distinguished Leadership Award by the National Association of Community Leadership. I developed national, award-winning programs and model policies and procedures. I am bringing new LiveScan fingerprint, mug shot and video technologies to the criminal justice system."

What would you like voters to know about you?

"It has been an honor to serve the citizens as sheriff. I look forward to making Fairfax County a safer and better community."

E-mail address: fampeed@aol.com