Early Fireworks

Todd Gilbert, Speaker of the House of Delegates

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The 2022 General Assembly has gotten off to an inauspicious start.

It started off quietly enough. On Wednesday, the first day, Delegate Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, was elected Speaker on vote of 97-0. It is not usual for the person selected by the majority party caucus to be Speaker to be formally elected by unanimous vote.

On Wednesday night, Governor Northam addressed the Joint Session in the annual State of the Commonwealth speech. Speaker Gilbert, sitting in the Speaker’s chair behind and above the Governor standing at the podium, either got bored or irked, or both, because he started Tweeting during the speech. As reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, this was one message:

Ralph Northam is leaving office as his own lost cause, condescendingly lecturing us all from some assumed moral high ground because he read the book ‘Roots’ and then went on a non-stop reconciliation tour. Saturday can’t come fast enough.

Needless to say, Democrats were outraged. Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, the former Speaker, was on her feet in a speech on the House floor on Thursday morning calling the current Speaker’s conduct “reprehensible” and that his oath of office was to be the Speaker for the whole House, not just the majority party.

Anyone who has watched Gilbert over the years should not be surprised at his remarks and their tone. He has seldom minced words in expressing his disdain for Democrats. It was evident two years ago when Filler-Corn became Speaker that there was bad blood between them.

Unless Gilbert tones down his partisan rhetoric, it could be a rocky session.