THERE MAY BE NO great fiery issues dominating next Tuesday's elections in Virginia, but voters should relish this significant opportunity to grade the performances of their state and local governments. For Northern Virginia, there is an especially important standard to use in making these judgements: the degree to which various candidates are likely to succeed in winning understanding in Richmond for the concerns of this part of the state. It is a test not only for those who are running for the General Assembly -- but for all candidates seeking more local option authority from the state legislature.

Metro is an obvious example. Most of the candidates for state and local offices support completion of the subway system -- but that faces a stiff challenge next year. First, members of the Northern Virginia delegation to Richmond need to secure a necessary commitment of state assistance; that's a budget matter. But they also will need to cooperate with local officials in drawing up a plan to raise local share of money for Metro; and that requires permission from Richmond and follow-up action by the local governments.

These valuable abilities are not confined to any one political party. In both the House of Delegates and the State Senate, there are incumbents who have served Northern Virginia with distinction and political savvy. The senior and most influential of these is the Senate majority leader, Adelard L. Brault (D-Fairfax County), whose experience, abilities and rank make him the best choice in the 34th District. Other region include Democrats Clive DuVal and Joseph V. Gartlan from Fairfax County and Republican Wiley F. Mitchell from Alexandria.

In the House, most of the Republican and Democratic inclumbents deserve reelection. In the 19th District, however, voters could improve their representation by dropping Robert L. Thoburn and Robert E. Harris from their list of five choices. Their only distinction in Richmond has been to vote against nearly every piece of progressive legislation sought by the rest of the Northern Virginia delegation, including one crucial vote against a Metro money bill. Among the new candidates and challengers for the House, there are some impressive candidates with solid experience in regional legislative affairs: Republicans Elizabeth C. (Betty) MCcann of Alexandria and James H. (Jim) Dillard of Fairfax, and Democrat Barbara W. Weiss of Vienna.

In Fairfax County, where the entire Board of Supervisors is up for election, the records of those seeking reelection are generally good. Chairman John F. Herrity (R), though running against an able challenger in Vivian E. Watts (D), has himself improved his style markedly over the years -- now taking a moderate and regional approach to issues as well as to colleagues on the board. In Loudoun and Prince William counties, meanwhile, no great evidence of a need for change has emerged.

The Arlington County Board elections do afford voters an important choice. Though Republican Walter L. Frankland now claims to be a supporter of the Metro system, his longtime opposition to the subway and his narrow understanding of its financing have not stood him or Arlington in good stead on the Metro board. Any of the other candidates for the two open board seats would be preferably.

In Alexandria, the local contest of note is for commonwealth's attorney -- and the best candidate is John E. Kloch. Mr Kloch was instrumental in cleaning up the scandals attached to that office and in getting William Cowhig to resign. For that particular public service, as well as for his emphasis of honest law enforcement, Mr. Kloch deserves election.