Prince William County Clerk of the Circuit Court David C. Mabie announced last week that he is a definite maybe to run for state Senate next year.

Echoing a similar news conference he held a little more than a year ago, Mabie said he will run for the 29th District seat if incumbent Sen. Charles J. Colgan (D-Prince William) does not. Mabie added that if Colgan, who is weighing an eighth term, has not made a decision by the first of the year, he will run regardless.

Although he is a Republican and Colgan a Democrat, Mabie said he wanted to defer to the longtime senator because of their 30-year friendship and shared political philosophy. But he said he felt compelled to make a statement because another Republican, Bob FitzSimmonds, already has announced his intention to seek the seat.

Mabie said that if he does run, he wants to restore the public's faith in state lawmakers.

"I have a history, a career of over 30 years of public service to this community," Mabie said. "I'd like to think that I've done a good job. I sense a lack of trust in Richmond and officials there. . . . I would like to be part of restoring that trust."

Colgan, 76, debated retiring in 1999 and said he is undecided about seeking another term. "I'm going to decide probably before the end of month," he said.

Colgan, who has been a member of the Senate since 1976, said his decision is somewhat confused because he said he's "getting a lot of pressure to run from citizens in the county."

As for Mabie, Colgan said he spoke to him a couple of weeks ago, and "I'm trying to accommodate him."

Along with his announcement, Mabie requested that local party members opt for a primary, rather than a convention, to select the Republican candidate. Mabie cited state party guidelines calling for a choice to be made by the end of December as another reason to make his announcement now.

Mabie said a primary would be a more inclusive format and would give him a better chance against FitzSimmonds.

Bruce Baxter, chairman of the Prince William County Republican Committee, and FitzSimmonds did not return calls and e-mails seeking comment.

The Northern Virginia sales tax referendum almost certainly will be a central issue in a contest between FitzSimmonds and Mabie. FitzSimmonds opposed a sales tax increase -- and already has received endorsements from several like-minded Republicans -- while Mabie came out in favor of it.

The county Republican Party and well more than half of the 35,000 people who voted in the 29th District on Nov. 5 sided against the sales tax increase. Additionally, county Republicans have vowed to work against candidates who supported the proposal.

FitzSimmonds, 50, enters his third political campaign, having lost a state delegate race in Charlottesville in 1985 and a Senate race to Colgan in 1999. FitzSimmonds is legislative assistant to Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William).

FitzSimmonds and Mabie both hue to the conservative end of the Republican spectrum, arguing for less government, for gun rights and to ban abortions. They split to a degree on taxes, with FitzSimmonds having taken a popular pledge to not raise taxes, while Mabie said he will not sign the pledge.

An Army veteran and former Prince William police officer, Mabie was first elected to the clerk's position in 1991 and reelected in 1999. He is perhaps best known for his Valentine's Day wedding services, during which he ushers scores of couples through a special ceremony.