After months of candidates going to door to door, planting signs along roadways and lobbing verbal barbs at their opponents, Tuesday's political contests in Stafford County will likely come down to one factor: who shows up at the polls.

In a year that features no national races and no fiery state contests, most observers expect a light turnout by the electorate. In overwhelmingly Republican Stafford County, such a scenario would seem to favor the challengers.

"We would prefer a larger turnout, because most of the districts are Republican," said John Van Hoy, chairman of the Stafford County Republican Club. "So we feel like a light turnout favors the challengers.

"Generally those people who want change come out," he said, adding that the fear within his party is that "our people will stay at home and think we've got it won."

Van Hoy estimates about half the electorate will vote in the northern part of the county, and about 60 percent in the southern portion. If those numbers drop to the 35 percent to 40 percent range, the Republicans could be in for a long night, he said.

The race that is most likely to teeter on turnout is the contest for the Griffis-Widewater seat on the Board of Supervisors. Traditionally, that district is home to tight races; the contest four years ago was decided by about 140 votes.

This year's race pits two of the three candidates from the 1995 race--incumbent Lindbergh A. Fritter (R) and challenger Jack Cavalier (I). Both candidates expect the election to turn on a handful of votes.

Van Hoy said the Republicans have concentrated the majority of their get-out-the-vote energy in the Griffis-Widewater District because "every vote counts in that one."

The scenario is somewhat different in the race for the George Washington seat, where incumbent Alvin Y. Bandy (R) faces Democratic challenger Pete Fields. Fields's camp is hoping for a light turnout, given that the district is heavily Republican.

"It all boils down to who votes," said Alane Callender, chairman of the Stafford County Democratic Club. "A light turnout would indicate that Bandy's people haven't been real enthusiastic about getting to the polls."

Nevertheless, Callender fears just the opposite. Two Republicans, Charles Jett, who is running for sheriff, and Thomas Moncure, a candidate for clerk of the Circuit Court, are from the southern part of the county and enjoy enthusiastic support from many followers. Callender is worried that their backers will flood the polls and notch a vote for Bandy while they're there.

The race could be "confounded by Jett's people and the fact that it's big Moncure territory," she said.

Few seem to have a feeling for the supervisor race in Rock Hill, where incumbent Robert C. Gibbons (R) faces challenger Bill Gray (I).

"I get the feeling there will be a light turnout," Gray said. "But I honestly don't know if that benefits me or Bob or either one of us."

The weather, always a key factor in determining who votes, is supposed to be sunny and mild, according to forecasts.