Meet the Candidates in Virginia’s Hottest House Seats

Photo by Dan Dennis on Unsplash

By Carolyn Fiddler

August 7, 2023

Several districts won by President Biden are up for grabs this year as Democrats work to reclaim control of the chamber.

Virginia’s election season for all 140 state House and Senate seats is well underway. Here are the contenders in the commonwealth’s most-watched House of Delegates races.

HD-97

In Hampton Roads-area House District 97, GOP incumbent Del. Karen Greenhalgh faces Democratic challenger Michael Feggans. Greenhalgh has spent her last couple of legislative sessions trying to undermine abortion access in the commonwealth. Feggans is an Air Force veteran who says that his top issue in the legislature will be reproductive health, followed closely by supporting education.

HD-97 went for Biden 55-42 and for Youngkin 51-48.

HD-71 

House District 71 sits a little northwest of Hampton roads and features another Republican incumbent: Del. Amanda Batten. She faces challenger Jessica Anderson, a progressive activist and public school employee who has a sizable following on TikTok. Batten is an outspoken supporter of education funding plans that funnel money away from public schools and into private institutions.

Batten stirred controversy earlier this year when she used money from her reelection campaign to pay for donuts intended to be delivered to local schools. Citing Batten’s voting record, which includes opposing teachers’ collective bargaining rights and supporting private education at public schools’ expense, numerous school staffers objected to what Anderson described as a “political stunt.”

HD-71 went for Biden 51-47, while Youngkin carried it 53-46.

HD-57

Closer to Richmond, we have House District 57, an open suburban seat that swung from 52-46 Biden in 2020 to 52-48 Youngkin a year later.

Nurse practitioner Susanna Gibson faces Republican businessman David Owen. Gibson wants to bring her extensive public health experience to bear in the legislature and lists reproductive rights as a top priority. In what may be an indication of how concerned Republicans are about their ability to win this seat, Owens doesn’t even mention abortion on his campaign website, but he boasts endorsements from many opponents of reproductive freedom.

Gibson is one of 12 Democrats the GOP began targeting with attack ads in July.

HD-82

In Petersburg-area House District 82, GOP incumbent Del. Kim Taylor faces Democratic challenger Kimberly Pope Adams, another target of the early Republican attack ads. Taylor’s website – which exclusively displays shades of blue instead of the GOP’s usual go-to color, red – also makes no mention of abortion, a key issue in this fall’s elections. Taylor has, however, cast votes in support of several anti-reproductive rights bills. Adams specifically lists protecting reproductive freedom as a priority on her campaign website, and she’s been endorsed by EMILY’s List, an organization that specifically supports women candidates who support abortion rights. 

HD-82 went for Biden 55-44 and Youngkin 51-48.

HD-21

In the northern Virginia sub/exurbs, House District 21 sees Marine veteran Josh Thomas facing former county supervisor John Stirrup. Thomas has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, but he understands that skyrocketing housing costs are a major issue in western Prince Williams County and is making that a major campaign priority. Stirrup was endorsed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin in his contentious primary, but despite the backing of a fellow Republican who wants to ban abortion in Virginia, his website eschews any mention of reproductive rights and instead seems to focus on local economic issues.

HD-21 went for Democratic U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton 51-49 in 2022, and Youngkin won it 51-49 in 2021; it’s considered one of the most competitive House seats this year. 

HD-65

In Fredericksburg-area House District 65, former Democratic Del. Joshua Cole is looking to return to the legislature. He faces Republican Lee Peters, a captain in the local sheriff’s office. Like Stirrup, Peters was endorsed in his primary by Youngkin, but his website makes no mention of abortion. Cole reliably cast pro-abortion votes during his tenure in the legislature and was just endorsed by national pro-reproductive freedom group NARAL Pro-Choice America.

HD-65 went for Biden 55-43 and Youngkin 51-48.

  • Carolyn Fiddler

    Carolyn Fiddler is Dogwood's chief political correspondent. She is also the nation’s foremost expert in state politics with almost two decades of experience in statehouse machinations, and her comic book collection is probably bigger than yours.

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