Tim Kaine, who was chosen as Hillary Clinton’s running mate on July 22, has brought Virginia to the national stage this election season. Who is this man, and what does he mean for us Virginians in this unusual election?
Tim Kaine first came to Virginia in 1984 after growing up in Kansas, graduating from University of Missouri, and attending law school at Harvard. He was a lawyer here in Richmond for 14 years, winning several major cases, before he launched into politics with his election as mayor of Richmond in 1998. After serving as mayor, Kaine was elected Lieutenant Governor in 2001. With continuing momentum, Kaine ran for Governor of Virginia in 2005 and won again. From 2009-2011, Kaine served as the chair of the Democratic National Convention, and in 2012 he was elected to the US Senate. You may have noticed a trend: Kaine has never lost an election. And he doesn’t plan on changing that any time soon, as he articulated during a recent fundraising event in Richmond. Interestingly enough, Kaine’s wife, Anne Holton, Virginia’s Secretary of Education from 2014 to 2016, comes from a political family. Her father, Kaine’s father-in-law Abner Linwood Holton Jr., served as governor of Virginia from 1970-1974.
Kaine is known among friends and fellow politicians as a loyal public servant and genuine man. His nomination as Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential candidate was followed by a string of well wishes from fellow politicians, both Democratic and Republican. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), tweeted: “Trying to count the ways I hate Tim Kaine. Drawing a blank. Congrats to a good man and a good friend.” Fellow Virginia senator Mark Warner commented, “There is no one of higher integrity and trustworthiness than Tim Kaine.” In an interview with Meet the Press, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Clinton’s early competition for the Democratic nomination, commented that despite Kaine being more conservative than himself, he is “a very, very smart…[and] nice guy.” Virginians feel the same way about Kaine. As governor, Kaine’s approval rating once almost reached 60%, and he currently has an approval rating of 53%.
Despite his positive reputation as a person, Kaine has received criticism for being too moderate within the Democratic Party. A devout Catholic, Kaine does not personally support abortion but does not support revoking a woman’s right to choose. He has been considered a “safe” option for Clinton’s running mate, hence the media’s and his own designation of being “boring.” His more traditional definition of progressive contrasts the far-left, progressive ideals of Bernie Sanders that garnered Sanders so much support earlier this year.
Aside from politics, Kaine enjoys playing his harmonica and is involved with his church. He has three children, Nat (26), Woody (24), and Anella (21). Kaine is also fluent in Spanish and delivered a speech in Spanish to the US Senate in 2013. On a different note, Kaine’s left eyebrow has seen a remarkable amount of fame. The energetic brow was first cast into the spotlight in 2006 with Kaine’s response to George Bush’s State of the Union Address. More recently, it has inspired Tim Kaine merchandise and many internet memes.
Virginia claims to be the “birthplace of presidents,” yet there hasn’t been a Virginian on a presidential ticket since Woodrow Wilson (who was actually representing New Jersey) in 1916, and then before him John Tyler in 1840. Virginia has been a swing state in recent presidential elections, with a long history of eventually leaning right. Virginia was a “red state” in every presidential election from 1968-2004, but went Democrat in 2008 and 2012. Clinton’s appointment of Kaine means that Virginia might swing left once more. A recent poll indicates that Clinton is currently leading in Virginia 45% to Republican Donald Trump’s 38%. Along with Kaine’s popularity among Virginians, state pride will also help Clinton and Kaine in Virginia polls this November.
The outcome of the election in November will be interesting to see, particularly for Virginians. Will Virginia vote Democrat for the third consecutive election? If Clinton and Kaine win, Kaine’s seat in the Senate would be open, and Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, would appoint a new senator. Since the balance in the Senate can be so important, the vacant seat would strike up an interesting debate.