To those of us who know him best, the most appealing thing about Marshall Coleman's candidacy is his obvious capacity to be an outstanding governor--but there are other reasons.

* Coleman is a strong friend of Northern Virginia. Both as a legislator and as attorney general, he has demonstrated a special interest in Northern Virginia. He has made it his business to become familiar with the problems of our area and consistently voted with the Northern Virginia Senate delegation on issues important to our region. His record of support for Metro and for a balanced transportation system for Northern Virginia is unblemished. He has strongly supported our efforts to obtain increased representation from Northern Virginia on state boards and commissions and is determined that in future budgets Northern Virginia will receive its fair share of state revenues.

* Despite some contrary public perceptions, there are major differences between Coleman and Charles Robb.

Coleman has broad experience in the House of Delegates, in the state Senate and as attorney general. Robb's total experience consists of a single term as lieutenant governor. His only constitutional responsibility during that term was to serve as the Senate's presiding officer.

Coleman opposes the constitutional amendment giving the District of Columbia two U.S. senators and one congressman. Robb supports this amendment.

Coleman supports uniform sentencing legislation, which would guarantee that convicted criminals serve their sentences in full. Robb opposes such legislation.

Coleman opposes voter registration by mail. Robb supports this proposal.

Coleman supports tuition tax credits. Robb opposes them.

Robb supports setting aside a percentage of state contracts for minority bidders, regardless of cost. Coleman supports awarding state contracts to the lowest responsible bidder.

Coleman would veto any tax increase. Robb is unwilling to make this commitment.

Coleman supports President Reagan's economic program. To be as charitable as possible, Robb vacillates.

* Coleman has backbone. Although he shares with President Reagan and Gov. John Dalton a firm commitment to balanced budgets and limited government, Coleman is not a product of the Republican establishment and is not afraid to take independent positions. He will admit error when he is wrong, but he will not abandon a position for reasons of expediency--no matter what the political consequences.

In 1977, when he was clearly the underdog in the hotly contested race for the Republican nomination for attorney general, Coleman demonstrated both his independence and his courage when the question of the Equal Rights Amendment reached the floor of the Senate. Against the strong advice of many of his closest advisers, and even though he knew the vote was almost certain to hurt his chances of winning the nomination, Coleman supported the ERA without hesitation. Again in 1981, when he had a clear chance to take political advantage of his opponent's tie-breaking vote in favor of Medicaid coverage of abortions involving rape and incest, Coleman stuck to his convictions and publicly supported his opponent's vote despite Gov. Dalton's opposition.

* Coleman is a creative problem-solver. His presumptive sentencing proposal, which would ensure that criminals serve their sentences in full and that sentences throughout the state are both uniform and fair, is an example of his innovative proposals. Although it is not generally known, Coleman played a leading role in negotiating the agreement with the federal government that resolved the longstanding controversy over the pace of integration of Virginia colleges and universities.

* In contrast to his opponent, Coleman's position on most issues is known and documented. His public record, which includes more than 10,000 recorded votes, is there for all to see. This record reflects strong support for public education (Coleman's No. 1 priority). It also reflects a tough, hard-nosed approach to crime and criminals, with illegal drugs and drug pushers being primary targets. In short, Marshall Coleman's long record of public service confirms his status as a competent and concerned public servant whose political philosophy places him in the conservative mainstream of Virginia politics.

* At a time when the role of the federal government is being sharply reduced, experienced and creative leadership at the state level is critical. Marshall Coleman is a leader worthy of the task.