Minority Leader Todd Gilbert Previews Republican Priorities for New Virginia House Majority


House of Delegates Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) outlined Republicans’ legislative goals for when they take majority control of the House, governor, attorney general, and lieutenant governor’s seats. In a press conference Friday, he said that win did give Republicans a mandate but said he was also aware of the need to work across the aisle since the Senate remains in Democratic control. He said the issues that Republicans raised during the campaigns would drive their agenda, including schools, cost of living, and public safety.

“We know we have a divided government now, and for lots of reasons, we think at least in terms of administration of the institutions, we will probably work better with the Democratic leadership than the House leadership did,” Gilbert said. “We do believe that we have something to fall back on in terms of a mandate. We believe that a number of things that were passed by the General Assembly under unfettered Democratic control actually played a large part in the outcome of these elections, and so we would hope to send some of those things back over to the Senate to right some wrongs. I’m thinking off the top of my head of the school crime reporting bill that got a lot of attention in the last three weeks of the campaign and really provided part of the basis of the closing narrative for the Youngkin campaign and for many of our House candidates.”


One of the issues where Democratic policy is most vulnerable is marijuana legalization; moderate Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) voted against it in 2021, leading to Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax casting a tie-breaking vote. With just 51 Democratic seats, Petersen’s defection on the issue in 2022 would cause a tie, which would be broken by the new Republican lieutenant governor, Winsome Sears.

Although marijuana legalization passed, the accompanying regulatory structure requires an additional vote in 2022. Several Republicans are pro-marijuana on paper, but opposed equity provisions in the regulation that favored granting retail licenses to people with prior convictions related to marijuana law enforcement. Although Gilbert didn’t mention that section specifically, he said there would be dramatic changes.

“There are also issues that remain unresolved that didn’t make a whole lot of sense when they passed. The marijuana space is something I’m thinking of. Obviously, they passed the legalization of marijuana but they did so without any sort of regulatory framework around it. So, all they did was essentially create a black market for marijuana, or enhance the black market for marijuana that already existed,” he said. “We’re going to have to work with the Democratic Senate to fix all that.”

Abortion and Elections

During the Virginia campaigns, Democrats highlighted the risk of Virginia Republicans imitating the controversial abortion law passed by Texas Republicans and the controversial elections laws passed by Georgia Republicans. Republican activists in Virginia generally are friendly to those kinds of policies. But Gilbert said that wasn’t what GOP delegates ran on, and it wasn’t what they would focus on.

“You didn’t hear our caucus running on those things,” he said.  “We ran on things that the bulk of mainstream Virginians, especially places where we’ve had challenges in the past, were talking about and thinking about and dealing with on a daily basis, which was how much more their life was becoming expensive and how much more fearful they were about their children’s education not being secure about their streets not being as safe. We ran on those things. Those are going to be the things we focus on,” Gilbert said.

He said, “You did not see any of our members out there talking about filing any bills along the lines of what you were saying.”

In the 2021 General Assembly session, many of the elections bills Republican members introduced failed, including bills to require weekly reporting of dead people to the Department of Elections; live video feeds of vote counting; require postmarks on absentee ballots to be legible; and require absentee ballot witnesses to include the voter’s printed name and address. Gilbert a sponsored a bill that would have required signatures on absentee ballots to match the voter’s signature on their application.

Early in the nomination cycle, Glenn Youngkin announced an election integrity task force. Youngkin’s plan included making the Virginia Department of Elections transparent and politically independent; monthly updates of voter rolls; verifying accuracy and timeliness of mail-in applications and ballots; requiring observer presence during ballot counting; and requiring voting machine audits. His press release said he would make election integrity a top priority.

After his Youngkin’s election, Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) said in a Facebook statement, “Looking forward to leading the effort in the General Assembly to ensure the safeguards that were taken off of our elections by Democrats are put back on. We need to return to photo ID to vote, eliminate risky mail-in ballots and conduct a full FORENSIC audit of the 2020 election. The risk limiting audit the state conducted was a joke and not comprehensive.

In his remarks Friday, Gilbert described a more narrow set of elections reforms.

“We are certainly going to do smart things like try to bring back common sense in terms of voting rights, bring back common sense measures like voter ID, that’s something I think universally is a good idea, that you should be able to prove who you are before doing something as important as voting, but other than that, those matters you talk about have not been on our list,” he told reporters who referred to Georgia’s new election laws.

He said, “We realize that we’re in a divided government right now and that a lot of the issues that people want to talk about, especially in the media, are important to try to keep selling papers and selling ad space, but you’re not hearing that from us.”

Race to be Speaker

Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-Wise) previously challenged Gilbert to be minority leader. Now, Kilgore has announced he will run to be Speaker of the House.

On Friday, Gilbert said, “It looks like at the moment we have a Speaker’s race and I’m going to make my case to our caucus about why I’m the best person to lead our caucus forward.”

He told reporters, “Those things are internal caucus issues and matters and while I’m happy to discuss what I can, I think that that is a different election with a very small constituency and I’ve been making my case to our caucus just like I did two years ago when we had kind of the same lineup of candidates. ”

“I feel confident that I have kept my promises as to how I would lead our caucus forward and obviously, we were successful on Tuesday, and I look forward to discussing that with our members.”

– – –

Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Todd Gilbert” by Todd Gilbert. 





Related posts