Democrat Greg Galligan, 29, may be young, but he's not at all afraid to take on a political powerhouse in November's 39th District Senate race.
His target is Republican incumbent Sen. James K. "Jay" O'Brien, who has 11 years’ experience as a state delegate, plus another year as a senator. But Galligan said the issues he stands for will resonate more strongly with the voters.
"I feel that the priorities my opponent has had in the past year are the wrong ones for Northern Virginia," he said. "He's someone who votes to cut the taxes on the 400 richest dead Virginians and, at the same time, votes for raising the fees of middle-class Virginians by $275 million."
A bachelor, Galligan lives in Alexandria's Wilton Woods community. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in government in 1996 from The College of William and Mary, has been active in local politics, and worked as a field organizer on Gov. Warner's 2001 campaign. From May 2001 until the end of December 2002, he worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative director for former U.S. Rep. James Barcia, D-Mich.
Galligan is a communications analyst for Dynetics Inc. in Crystal City and previously served five years in the U.S. Army. A pilot, he flew the famous Blackhawk helicopter. He's still a drilling reservist with the Army National Guard, serving as a captain in the Medical Service Corps.
He tossed his hat into the political ring because he doesn't like what O'Brien's doing in the Senate and believes he can do better. Regarding the estate-tax reduction and the rise in fees, Galligan said, "I find this disturbing when we're looking at one of the largest budget shortfalls in recent memory, coupled with the fact that university tuitions are increasing across the state.
"Since nearly every locality has seen its real-estate tax skyrocket, it begs the question, 'Why, [O'Brien], are you cutting [estate] taxes?' To me, that's unacceptable and wrong — and he needs to be held accountable for it."
Galligan said that O'Brien has "essentially ignored the needs of the elderly" in the 39th District. "We don't have an effective plan for dealing with skyrocketing prescription-drug costs for seniors," he said.. "Jay's been in Richmond for 12 years, and we're still waiting for this plan."
This issue hit close to home for Galligan, who takes care of his father, 76, who's disabled and suffers from emphysema and pulmonary embolisms.
"I see the challenges seniors face every day," he said. "This is a critical program that my opponent has chosen not to establish. My father can't wait another two years and go through more political posturing and bickering between a Republican legislature and the Democratic governor."
Galligan described himself as someone who was "going to go down to Richmond and get these things done. I know the governor, and I want to work with him. When the governor succeeds, the commonwealth succeeds. But nothing I've seen of O'Brien makes me believe that he's going to work with the governor in the next two years."
GALLIGAN IS NOT just a one-issue candidate; his No. 1 issue is education. "I want to be an advocate and a champion of education," he said. "The extreme, conservative agenda of my opponent is on a collision course with a well-financed and successful education system."
The problem, he said, is that the State Board of Education and the Virginia Higher Education Council have identified a combined $700 million in needs for the education system statewide.
"So we need to take on the governor's challenge and create a fair and effective tax-reform legislation that's going to allow us to fund education at the level it needs to be," said Galligan. "It all comes down to priorities."
Another of his top priorities is transportation. Noting that it's a huge issue for Northern Virginia, he said every politician is going to make a commitment to try to obtain more money for this region. But the reality of the matter can't be avoided, he said.
"It's a very difficult task," said Galligan. "It's widely known that the rest of the state gangs up against Northern Virginia. But I'd do less bickering and arguing with Northern Virginia legislators and work together with them to get money [for this area]."
While working on Capitol Hill, Galligan said, he built a reputation for being bipartisan. "I'm someone who worked on a daily basis with Republicans, Independents and Democrats from all across the political spectrum," he said. "I got a Democratic bill through a Republican House of Representatives, I conferenced it with the U.S. Senate and had it signed by President Bush. What's more bipartisan than that?"
Chris Blanda of Vienna was Congressman Barcia's chief of staff when Galligan worked for him, and he said Galligan did an outstanding job.
"He's a young man of character and integrity; he embodies the American work ethic," said Blanda.
"What Greg brings to the table is youth, vigor and his understanding of the issues," Blanda said. "From Barcia, he [learned] how the issues impact people — which is what politics is all about. And because of his military experience, he has a can-do attitude and a striking ability to get the job done."
Alexandria's Matt Anthes met Galligan three or four years ago, while working on the Lee District Democratic Committee. "He's one of the next generation of leaders — young and dedicated to public service," said Anthes. "He's a guy that sweats the details and has a passion for issues and for really sticking with them and pushing them forth to make sure they're getting the proper attention."
Anthes said that it was "time for fresh blood and fresh ideas, and Greg is somebody who's going to work hard to bring the community into focus and make [it] better. He has immense energy and a passion for the local, political scene. He's a guy you connect with, and he can really invigorate people."
"I want to go to Richmond to get things done now," said Galligan.