Del. Todd Gilbert said he wants to continue representing the 15th District in Virginia's House of Delegates while working to prevent the advancement of the Democrats' agenda.
"I think I've been a pretty good reflection of the vast majority of the people I represent in Richmond, as far as being a representative of their values," Gilbert said in a recent interview.
The 15th District includes Shenandoah and Page counties and parts of Warren and Rockingham counties. Gilbert is being challenged in the Nov. 2 election by Democrat Emily Scott, who previously ran for the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors.
First elected in 2005, Gilbert is serving his eighth term. In 2018, he was elected to be the Republican leader of the House of Delegates. He was House majority leader for the 2018-2020 term until the Democrats took the majority in the 2020 election and Gilbert became House minority leader.
Gilbert, 50, grew up in the Shenandoah Valley. His father worked in the poultry business, and his mother was a public school teacher. After earning an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia, he went to Southern Methodist University for law school.
His ultimate career goal was to become a commonwealth's attorney, and he worked as a prosecutor for about 15 years, six of those in Shenandoah County. But when then-delegate Allen Louderback decided not to run again, Gilbert said he decided to seek the seat for the chance to impact lives at a higher level.
Virginia's General Assembly representatives are not full-time positions, so Gilbert also works as a private defense attorney.
Among the accomplishments he points to during his time in office are: presenting a budget amendment to provide more remote learning opportunities at the Page County campus of Lord Fairfax Community College; facilitating the creation of the Seven Bends State Park in Shenandoah County; bringing the Virginia State Police barracks to Woodstock and passing ethics rules for legislators in the wake of the former Gov. Bob McDonnell's gift scandal.
And he never forgets, he said, that he represents three of the top five agriculture producing counties in Virginia, so he has worked to bring more resources to the farmers of Shenandoah, Page and Rockingham counties.
"I always try to be available to help carry out that vision," Gilbert said, referring to what localities may desire for their community.
One particular goal, Gilbert said, is working to ensure Democrats are not elected so citizens outside of Northern Virginia can have their values represented. Democrats have been pushing a far-leftist agenda, he said, whether it be economically, in education or by portraying criminals as victims and police as the bad guys, he said.
Gilbert believes the law enforcement changes passed by the General Assembly after the Democrats took the majority removed tools police officers had to do their job, such as search warrant procedures, equipment and not enforcing certain violations.
A way to make communities safer, Gilbert said, is by introducing a program called Operation Ceasefire, which originated in Boston to deter gun violence, particularly by gang members, by increasing the penalties violators would face.
"Ceasefire went a long way toward changing behavior, changing outcomes," Gilbert said.
As for education, Gilbert said his constituents want schools to teach math, science and reading and not attempt to create social equity or to teach critical race theory.
Gilbert is not also pleased with the efforts of the Democratic majority to legalize marijuana. Virginia legalized marijuana without establishing the regulatory and tax framework for the plant, Gilbert said, which is the opposite of what other states have done.
And the recently passed green energy bill was not thought out, Gilbert added, with families expected to pay an additional $800 annually to comply with its new energy source requirements.
"I think they're hoping for the best, but that's not the way you govern," Gilbert said of the Democrats' policies.
And Virginia isn't as business friendly as some rankings would indicate, he said. The ranking Virginia received from CNBC as the number one state to do business in was more to punish states like Texas and Florida for political reasons, Gilbert said. The Motley Fool, soon after the CNBC ranking was released, put the state as 49th worst to start a small business in, Gilbert said.
"We're falling pretty far, pretty fast," Gilbert said.
To address the COVID-19 pandemic, Gilbert said everyone should strongly consider getting the vaccine, but he's adamantly opposed to the government making people take it. Gilbert has received the vaccine.
"I'd rather risk whatever may be the unknown with this vaccine than I would be the unknown with something that is frankly not like the flu as much as people initially wanted to make it like the flu ... " Gilbert said, speaking to the hospitalizations and deaths that have resulted from the virus.
Politicizing the pandemic was unfortunate, he said, when it should be addressed from a scientific level.
Traffic on Interstate 81 is another concern of his constituents. Addressing truck traffic will take a multi-faceted solution and federal dollars, he said.
Gilbert, who is pro-life, said he was happy to be in a position to defeat a Democrat-proposed bill that would have allowed abortion up until the moment of birth. He's not seen any bills put forth by Republican members about abortion, he said.
"I think this has long been a matter for the courts that have been long settled and I think we'll see if they take any other action," Gilbert said. "We have to live within the framework of existing jurisprudence. That's where we are."
The core things that shape Gilbert's approach, he said, involve personal and economic liberty and the commensurate amount of the personal responsibility that comes with that liberty.
"Every time we give up a little bit of our responsibility to the government or something that we were previously responsible for, we've given up that same measure of freedom," Gilbert said.