Two former prosecutors who have each served in the General Assembly for 14 years are battling to become Virginia's attorney general.
Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) and Del. Robert F. "Bob" McDonnell (R-Virginia Beach), have made public safety their campaign centerpieces
Both have promised to strengthen punishments for sex offenders, including equipping offenders with Global Positioning System devices that would track their movements.
Both have also talked about a growing problem of methamphetamine, a drug often produced in home laboratories using household products.
Deeds, who served as commonwealth's attorney in rural Bath County for four years, said that he would combat the drug by seizing the assets of its makers and putting ingredients for its production behind pharmacy counters.
McDonnell, who was assistant commonwealth's attorney in Virginia Beach for two years and is an Army veteran, said he would push for longer prison sentences for repeat drug offenders and would revamp drug abuse prevention programs in schools.
Deeds has also proposed creating a section of the attorney general's office that would help train local prosecutors to fight computer crimes, especially identity theft. "Identify theft is probably the number one criminal issue of the next generation," he said.
McDonnell has stressed reducing regulations on businesses and curbing frivolous lawsuits filed against the state by prisoners.
Using his rural background and an endorsement from the National Rifle Association, Deeds has tried to improve his position on law-and-order issues that have been successful for Republicans.
"I've been a consistent supporter of gun rights," he said. "I know in general they support Republican candidates. I'm proud to have their support."
In the General Assembly, Deeds sponsored an amendment to Virginia's constitution affirming the right to hunt and fish.
He also supports the death penalty and endorsed a proposal by Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry W. Kilgore to expand its use for gang leaders who order murders.
McDonnell said he has a more comprehensive record on such issues, including a leading role in such changes to the criminal justice system as the abolition of parole. He is chairman of the House Courts of Justice Committee, which oversees legal matters and appoints judges.
"I think I've got more credibility on these issues by far," he said.
He said a 2001 vote by Deeds supporting a moratorium on the death penalty while a state auditing agency was studying the statute's constitutionality calls into question Deeds's support for executions.
Deeds said he voted for the moratorium, which failed, because he thought executions should be delayed if they might be constitutionally questionable.
The men have clashed on budgets and social issues. Deeds supported a 2004 budget plan endorsed by Democrats and some Republicans that brought in $1.5 billion over two years for education, health and public safety. McDonnell opposed the plan, arguing that the state did not need to raise taxes.
They also differ on abortion. McDonnell is a leader in the antiabortion movement. He sponsored legislation to require a 24-hour waiting period before a woman could have an abortion and helped write the 2003 law that banned a late-term abortion procedure. He favors allowing abortions only in cases in which the mother's life is at risk.
Deeds said abortion should remain legal, even if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, which said the procedure is a constitutional right. He also supports state funding for embryonic stem cell research and pledged that he would not weigh in on controversial end-of-life decisions if a family dispute like the Terri Schiavo case arises in Virginia.