A kinder, gentler Todd Gilbert? ‘It depends on the day and the issue.’

Republican House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert told reporters Gov. Ralph Northam still hasn't answered for how a racist photo appeared on his yearbook page. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Over the weekend, deposed Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates chose Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, to lead them through their next two years in the minority.

Of the two leaders reportedly under consideration (Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Scott, also made a bid), Gilbert was the more conservative choice. He continued to oppose Medicaid expansion last year and is known for combative debate on the House floor and in committee meetings. It was his persistent questioning of Del. Kathy Tran, D-Fairfax, which yielded the infamous video that ignited a furor over her failed bill on late-term abortion restrictions.

Perhaps somewhat incongruously, it will be up to Gilbert to help his party win back ground in the suburbs, where hardline GOP policies haven’t played well in recent years. Gilbert said Monday he expects he’ll function in his new role pretty much the same way he did in his old, minus the ability to pass bills and maybe a little bit less bomb throwing:

I always try to be a zealous advocate for our caucus. But certainly, the big difference is that it’s not our job to set the agenda anymore. The Democrats are in full control of the legislature and the governor’s mansion and they’re going to set an agenda and our job is to react to that agenda and call it out when we think they’re overreaching.

I think those opportunities will present themselves. I hope they are few and far between because I want whoever is governing Virginia to do it well. We just have some philosophical differences that will continue to make themselves apparent going forward.

Should we expect a kinder, gentler Todd Gilbert?

It depends on the day and the issue. Just like being an effective trial lawyer, you pick your battles. And we intend to.