VIRGINIA ranks only 36th in crime nationally, but Republican George Allen rode a wave of concern here about murders, robberies, and car-jackings to build a huge victory in his race for governor against Democrat Mary Sue Terry.
Mr. Allen, a former congressman, demonstrated once again that in skillful hands, the crime issue works wonders for Republican candidates, says Robert Holsworth, a Virginia political scientist.
``Increased violent crime is ... almost made-to-order for Republicans, who have the image of being tough,'' says Dr. Holsworth, who teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Allen won by a surprising 58 percent to 41 percent margin, partly by promising to abolish parole for violent criminals. Democrats' efforts to paint Allen as a captive of the religious right, and particularly the Rev. Pat Robertson, apparently failed.
Political scientist George Grayson says Allen's huge victory also can be attributed to this state's long recession, which will confront the incoming governor with a $500 million budget deficit for 1994.
Dr. Grayson, who wears two hats as a Democratic delegate to the Virginia General Assembly and a professor at the College of William and Mary, says the Old Dominion is being hammered by the loss of government spending after the cold war.
Virginia ranks near the top nationwide in both military spending (the Pentagon is here in Arlington), and nonmilitary federal expenditures - and Washington is cutting back on both. Military contracts are drying up at the big shipyards around Norfolk, while civilian jobs are being lost in northern Virginia near the capital.
Harry Wilson, director of the Center for Community Research at Roanoke College, calls Allen's victory ``gigantic.'' He overcame a 29-point deficit as of last summer, winning by 17 percent - a 46-point shift.
Professor Wilson gives much of the credit to conservative Christians, who turned out in huge numbers and backed Allen by a 3-to-1 margin. ``The message in this campaign in Virginia is the real influence of the religious right,'' Wilson says.
The most prominent religious conservative in the state is the Rev. Mr. Robertson, a cable broadcaster. Robertson ran for the presidency in 1988 and was a $10,000 contributor to Allen's campaign.
RELIGIOUS right voters could soon expand their influence in Virginia as a number of communities move to install elected school boards for the first time in coming months.
Allen favors communities having the option of developing local voucher programs to support private schools with public funds. Democrats charge the Allen proposal would undermine public education.
Terry's advisers say she was burdened throughout the campaign by the statewide unpopularity of her fellow Democrats, Sen. Charles Robb, Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, and President Clinton. She never did escape their shadows, they say.