Todd Gilbert

RICHMOND — The two top Republicans seeking leadership roles in the House of Delegates averted an intra-party feud by coming to an agreement over who will be the next House Speaker. 

Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, the current House Minority Leader, and Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Scott County, both announced their bids for the chamber’s top job last week. But in a letter sent to their caucus members Friday, Gilbert and Kilgore said that they have come to an understanding about their leadership roles in what will be a Republican majority in the 100-seat House. 

Terry Kilgore

“Todd is proud to endorse Terry for Majority Leader, and Terry is proud to endorse Todd for Speaker. Ultimately, any final decision will be left up to you,” the letter said. Neither was willing to comment Tuesday, citing the confidentiality of caucus meetings.

Kilgore, 60, who was elected to represent House District 1 in 1993 and serves on the Commerce and Labor, Courts of Justice and Rules committees, was the first to announce his bid for House speaker in a news release less than 24 hours after Republicans swept the commonwealth by winning back all three statewide offices. GOP candidates also flipped seven House seats, giving them the upper hand in the chamber with what will likely be a 52-48 majority. 

“Since the Republican caucus of the House of Delegates picked up enough seats to take back the majority, I am announcing my intention to run for Speaker,” Kilgore said in his statement. “It is time for fresh leadership and leadership that will keep and grow our new majority. Let’s get to work!” 

Gilbert, 51, followed suit the next day. He was first elected to represent the 5th House district in 2005. He became House Majority Leader in 2018, when former Del. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, assumed the speakership. After the 2019 elections, when Democrats won the majority in the House, Gilbert became the minority leader.

  In a Zoom call with reporters one day before he signed off on the letter to his caucus, Gilbert vowed that he would continue to make his case to House Republicans about “why I am the best person” to carry on with leading the caucus forward. “Those things are internal caucus issues and matters, and while I am happy to discuss what I can, that is a different election with a small constituency,” Gilbert said. “I have been making my case to our caucus just as I did two years ago, when we had kind of the same lineup of candidates.”

Both contenders likely came to an agreement that evening or the next morning, sparing the caucus a potentially damaging battle over the speakership while retaining party unity. No others have come forward seeking the top job in the House. 

In their letter, Kilgore and Gilbert called last week’s election “a historic success” that was due in large part to teamwork. “The two of us, along with our entire campaign team, worked very well together and were honored to lead this caucus’ efforts to regain our majority. Barring the announcement of others for these two posts, we believe this is the best path forward for a unified caucus to not only advance our shared conservative agenda, but also defend our majority — regardless of whether that happens in 2022 or 2023,” they wrote. 

Members of the House Republican caucus are set to vote for new leadership on Nov. 14. 

The letter:

Dear Members & Members-elect,

We would like to begin this email by once again congratulating all of you on hard-fought elections. Because of your efforts, not only did Republicans sweep all three state-wide elections, we were able to regain the House Majority. You made that happen.

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. Ultimately, any final decision will be left up to you.

Tuesday night was a historic success, and it was due in large part to teamwork. The two of us, along with our entire campaign team, worked very well together and were honored to lead this caucus’ efforts to regain our majority. Barring the announcement of others for these two posts, we believe this is the best path forward for a unified caucus to not only advance our shared conservative agenda, but also defend our majority — regardless of whether that happens in 2022 or 2023.

We look forward to meeting with you all on Sunday, Nov. 14th, to congratulate you all in person and nominate our leadership team as we begin planning for the upcoming session.

Respectfully,

Todd and Terry

Markus Schmidt

Markus Schmidt is a reporter for Cardinal News. Reach him at markus@cardinalnews.org.