For more than two decades, the voters in Virginia's 41st House District have elected Del. James H. Dillard II (R), making him one of the state's longest-serving legislators.

But Dillard has decided to retire, and two relative newcomers to politics, both Fairfax natives, are vying to fill the seat.

Republican Michael J. Golden, 31, an appellate lawyer, says he would work to limit "out-of-control tax increases" and reduce waste in government spending. Dave W. Marsden, 57, the Democratic candidate, headed Fairfax County's juvenile detention center for 17 years and said that experience makes him well qualified to help curb Virginia's growing gang problem.

Both candidates have visited thousands of Fairfax homes in an effort to meet voters and share ideas about illegal immigration, traffic and taxes.

Marsden, who began his career as a juvenile probation officer in Fairfax, has made gang prevention the centerpiece of his campaign. He said he would introduce a bill that would allow probation officers to share gang intelligence with police, a practice now barred because of confidentiality concerns. And he would seek to have federal officials pursue deportation of illegal immigrants whose children are convicted gang members, an approach he thinks would give teenagers an excuse to stay away from gangs if they are pressured to join.

"I'm not running for police chief, but I think I have a vital role to play in advising my fellow delegates on gang prevention, suppression and intervention," Marsden said.

Golden said that although Marsden may have experience dealing with gang crime, "he hasn't been effective."

Golden said he would work to give local police greater power to enforce immigration violations. He also would "tackle illegal immigration" by making sure illegal immigrants do not receive Medicaid or other benefits to which they are not entitled. And he supports efforts to bar students who are illegal immigrants from attending Virginia's state universities at the in-state tuition rate.

Golden, who lives in Orange Hunt Estates in the Springfield area with his wife and young daughter, has vowed to oppose tax hikes that would increase the tax burden for families and seniors. He said one of his top priorities would be working to overhaul a "broken" property tax system that has meant ever-higher bills for homeowners because of increasing assessments.

Golden said that he's "open-minded" about solutions, but said that lawmakers should consider a plan that would base the tax payment on a home's sale price, not the current market value.

"I think the key here is to create a system that provides certainty from year to year," Golden said. "It has to be easily definable and predictable enough so that people can budget for what they have to pay each year."

Marsden said that localities need to reduce their dependence on property taxes, and that he would support a tax on tourists staying in local hotels. But he said Golden's pledge to oppose tax increases is misguided.

"I'm realistic," Marsden said. "I've been involved in government all my life, and I know there's no free lunch."

Golden attended the University of Virginia and earned a law degree at Georgetown University. He was a clerk for a federal appellate judge and is a lawyer at Latham & Watkins LLP, a large international law firm with an office in the District. In 2003, he ran for the House seat as an independent but lost to Dillard.

Marsden, who served for a time as chief deputy and acting director of Virginia's Department of Juvenile Justice, heads a private company that is running a U.S. Department of Justice program aimed at preventing juvenile crime. He also worked as Dillard's legislative aide.

Marsden, who lives with his wife in Burke and has three sons, said he would work to increase state funding for state colleges. Golden supports regular competency tests for public school teachers and bonuses for teachers whose students perform well.