Va. Republicans avert House of Delegates leadership battle with handshake deal

Capitol Connection

Del. Todd Gilbert, the top House Republican, has endorsed Del. Terry Kilgore for majority leader and Kilgore is now backing Gilbert for House speaker after the two were expected to face off for the role.

House minority leader, Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, center, gestures as he express frustration with the rules committee actions as Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Scott, listens, right, during a joint session of the House and Senate Rules Committees at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Va., Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. The committee passed rules restricting gun access to the State buildings. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — While the vote won’t be held for another six days, an agreement between two Republicans seems to have settled who will be Virginia’s next House speaker.

Current House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) and Del. Terry Kilgore (R-Scott) both put their names up for speaker after Republicans swept Virginia’s statewide elections and before Democrats conceded that the GOP won a majority in the House of Delegates.

Kilgore, the caucus’s campaign chair for this year’s elections, called for “fresh leadership” when announcing his intentions to seek the role of House speaker on Nov. 3.

In a press conference the next day, Gilbert said he felt “confident” House Republicans would recognize that he was the best person to lead the caucus forward.

The race for speaker was set to be the first inter-party power struggle in the newly flipped House, but it didn’t last long. In a joint letter, Gilbert and Kilgore informed caucus members on Nov. 5 that they have agreed to back each other for different leadership roles.

“We are writing to you today to let you know that we have come to an understanding with one another about our intentions with respect to seeking leadership roles. Todd is proud to endorse Terry for Majority Leader, and Terry is proud to endorse Todd for Speaker,” they wrote. “Ultimately, any final decision will be left up to you.”

Seeking to present a unified front after the election, Gilbert and Kilgore added that they believe this would be the best path forward to advance the caucus’s “shared conservative agenda” and defend the GOP’s majority in the 100-member chamber “regardless of whether that happens in 2022 or 2023.”

Multiple House Republican staffers have told 8News that it appears unlikely for other state delegates to seek the leadership roles, with two saying they would be surprised if Gilbert wasn’t named speaker and Kilgore wasn’t named majority leader.

Kilgore did not immediately respond to 8News’ message seeking comment. Gilbert’s office provided 8News with the letter, but his spokesperson declined to discuss internal caucus decisions.

Virginia House Republicans will meet on Nov. 14 to vote on new leadership.

Gilbert served as minority leader for the last two years after former House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) decided not to seek a leadership role following Democrats’ win in 2019. Kilgore, a House member since 1994 who ran unopposed this year, sought the speaker’s role in 2017 but eventually bowed out of the race.

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