Air Force veteran Michael Feggans (D) is challenging incumbent Del. Karen Greenhalgh (R) in Virginia’s 97th House District. (Courtesy of Feggans and Greenhalgh)
In the Virginia Beach-centered 97th House District, a close race is shaping up between Republican incumbent and entrepreneur Del. Karen Greenhalgh and Democratic Air Force veteran Michael Feggans.
Greenhalgh, who is finishing out her first term in office, has founded several cabinet manufacturing and cybersecurity businesses, as well as managing a pregnancy crisis center. While Greenhalgh did not agree to an interview with the Mercury, she provided written statements indicating she’s focusing her campaign on taxes, support for veterans and reducing crime.
“During my time in office I have been focused on lowering the tax burden on Virginia families, keeping our community safe, and standing up for our veterans,” Greenhalgh said.
Her challenger, Michael Feggans, served in the military for 20 years and had an internship with Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Warner before becoming a small business owner in the technology industry. His top issues are reproductive freedom, funding schools and reducing gun violence.
“At the end of the day, we’re going to have to move forward and work to make Virginia better,” Feggans said. “Of course there’s gonna be lines in the sand that we must draw, especially when it comes to reproductive freedom and supporting our educators.”
The district has voted predominantly for Democratic candidates in recent state and federal elections, except for the 2021 election of Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who won 50.6% of the district’s votes. In the 2022 election of Republican U.S. Rep. Jen Kiggans, 52.5% of voters in the district voted Democratic.
An analysis of the latest campaign finance reports by the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project show Feggans and Greenhalgh as the top House recipients of campaign cash between July 1 and Aug. 31. During that time, Feggans raised $632,726 and Greenhalgh $597,707. Over the course of their campaigns, Feggans has taken in $889,993 total and Greenhalgh $852,949.
Like many Democrats statewide, Feggans is heavily emphasizing abortion following the overturning of Roe v. Wade. He pointed to now-Sen. Aaron Rouse’s victory in a January special election after an abortion-focused campaign as a roadmap he is following.
Unlike other Southern states, Virginia hasn’t made any changes to its abortion laws since the Dobbs decision, and continues to allow the procedure through the first two trimesters with few restrictions and permit it in the third if three doctors determine continuing the pregnancy would pose a severe risk to the mother. Youngkin and GOP legislators have pushed for stricter limits, with many rallying behind a ban after 15 weeks that includes exceptions for rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother.
“When you’re looking at the map from Florida on up … unfortunately those states have decided to place restrictions which have required patients to come a long distance to receive the health care that they need,” said Feggans.
“The current laws that are on the books should be supported in the future and I do not support any restrictions on those,” he told the Mercury.
Greenhalgh’s statement to the Mercury didn’t mention abortion, but her website states she supports Youngkin’s 15-week approach. Last session, she introduced a bill that would have required abortion providers to obtain written “informed consent” from patients.
She is likely to be vulnerable on the issue due to her prior role as a clinic manager of the Crisis Pregnancy Center of Tidewater, which operates the Keim pregnancy centers throughout Hampton Roads. Such facilities have faced intense criticism for advertising themselves to pregnant women as offering consultations on reproductive decisions while actively dissuading abortion. Former Del. Alex Askew targeted Greenhalgh’s history with the center during his 2021 campaign, which he lost.
Top of mind for Greenhalgh is the traditionally Republican issue of reducing the tax burden for Virginians.
“In Richmond, I sponsored the legislation that gave retired veterans a permanent tax break, and voted for ending the grocery tax and lowering the tax burden on Virginia families,” Greenhalgh said in her statement.
The General Assembly’s past two budgets have offered significant one-time tax rebates to Virginians and nearly doubled the standard deduction through the end of 2025. The 2022 budget bill also included the elimination of the state’s portion of the grocery tax.
For veterans — a significant voting bloc in military-heavy Hampton Roads — Greenhalgh was one of numerous Republicans to sign onto legislation from Del. John McGuire, R-Henrico, that reduced veterans’ taxable income.
Feggans has leaned into his veteran experience in his TV ads, calling service “a calling,” and adding, “When it was my turn, I didn’t hesitate.”
Feggans said he is focused on “continuing and increasing” funding for Virginia schools, including teacher pay raises and infrastructure investments. He pointed to a recent state study that found Virginia school districts are receiving 14% less funding than the national average.
“We need to make sure we’re continuing the investments and increasing the investments in our public school education system,” Feggans said.
Greenhalgh said she has worked to make “children safer at school,” including through her support for repeal of a 2020 law that removed the requirement for school administrators to report certain student offenses that could be a misdemeanor to law enforcement. The law came under scrutiny in 2021 when the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office charged a student with sexual assault in a high-profile case.
On community safety, Greenhalgh said she is “proudly working with law enforcement to get tough on violent crime.”
Her website states she voted to give raises to law enforcement, which were included in the 2022 budget. City statistics show there were more homicides and robberies in Virginia Beach in 2022 compared to 2021, but fewer rapes and aggravated assaults.
Feggans said his priority is gun safety. A gun owner himself, he is advocating for safe gun storage, red flag laws and background checks.
“I am a responsible firearm owner,” said Feggans. “I know the importance of making sure that not only that they’re controlled within the home, but supporting any ways that we can make our communities safe by expanding background checks and enhanced red flag laws.”
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