The Washington Post is spotlighting several political issues that have been prominent during the 2005 campaign. All the articles are available by clicking on Election News at www.washingtonpost.com/metro. Today's topic: gang-related crime.

Background Gang violence has risen in Northern Virginia in recent years, among Latino gangs in particular, authorities say. Some estimate that Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, the most pervasive and violent gang, has 2,500 members in the region. The General Assembly has passed laws that increase penalties for convicted gang members, and millions of federal and state dollars have been spent on anti-gang task forces and initiatives.

The Debate Republican Jerry W. Kilgore proposes a rehabilitation program for some gang members and more severe penalties, including the death sentence, for some gang crimes. Democrat Timothy M. Kaine wants to hire more state troopers, offer anti-gang training for teachers and principals and strengthen penalties for crimes involving guns.

The Race The winner of the Nov. 8 election will become Virginia's chief executive, managing the administrative branch of state government, which includes state police. The governor presents budgets -- which can include anti-gang initiatives -- to the General Assembly and reviews legislation, including any gang-related bills.