IN THREE TERMS as the congressman from Virginia's Tenth District, Democrat Joseph L. Fisher has become one of the most respected members of the U.S. House -- regularly consulted for his moderate and thoughtful views on a wide range of issues. Mr. Fisher's impressive knowledge of economics and his reasoned approach to complicated legislative matters have earned him seats on important committees over the years -- which might be justification enough for his reelection. But there are many additional tests on which Mr. Fisher clearly outdistances his Republican challenger, a lawyer-lobbyist Frank R. Wolf.

Besides having a superior grasp of budget and tax issues, Mr. Fisher was a respected "energy economist" long before this field was recognized by other public officials as important. On local issues, Mr. Fisher's interests go back to his days as an active worker for the Arlingtonians for a Better County (ABC) movement and his service on the Arlington County Board. He also was an early advocate of stronger regional cooperation on transit, air and water pollution and other projects in which mutual interests could result in more economical and efficient approaches.

If this is a tough act to follow, Mr. Wolf has shown no compelling reasons to change it. Though he seizes every campaign opportunity to criticize Mr. Fisher on the economy, Mr. Wolf's ideas for economic recovery are short on particulars; he supports a modified Kemp-Roth tax cut of 10 percent with "a review after the first year to determine whether additional cuts are warranted."

The most tedious and silly of Mr. Wolf's criticisms has to do with bilingual education in the schools. Though Mr. Fisher has repeatedly stated his opposition to the proposed regulations, Mr. Wolf has continued to cite one vote on a confusing House amendment as evidence that Mr. Fisher has been on both sides of the issue. Since both candidates are on record as opposed, there is no reason for Mr. Wolf to continue asserting otherwise. It is precisely this lack of substance or constructive program on his part that strengthens the already overwhelming case for reelecting Joseph Fisher.

In the Eighth District, Democratic Rep. Herbert E. Harris, running against a Republican who held the seat for one term and a little-known independent, has been genuinely helpful over the years at the congressional end of Metro's intricate financing structure. In this district -- which covers half of Northern Virginia -- the successful efforts of Mr. Harris on behalf of regional transportation are important.In addition, he has done a generally good and always vigorous job of representing the district on matters that touch it directly. Aside from his regular biennial attack on Big Oil, a subject on which we have differed strongly with the congressman, Mr. Harris has worked effectively on regional affairs, constituent problems and matters that have come before the House Judiciary Committee.

Former GOP Rep. Stanford Parris brings to the campaign a record of undistinguished service during his lone House term and no evidence that his narrow approach has changed over the years since his defeat. The third candidate is independent Deborah Frantz, who entered the contest to advocate repeal of marijuana laws and who has yet to make any noticeable political inroads.