Politics

Clinton Picks Virginia's Tim Kaine for VP

Former swing-state governor supports tougher gun laws, trade deals

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine at an event in Northern Virginia last week. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Hillary Clinton announced Friday that Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine will be her running mate, tapping a swing-state Democrat who brings to the ticket expertise in foreign affairs, support for tougher gun laws and a reputation as an even-tempered politician.  

I'm thrilled to share this news: I've chosen Tim Kaine as my running mate," Clinton announced in an email to supporters sent at 8:20 p.m.. "Tim is a lifelong fighter for progressive causes and one of the most qualified vice presidential candidates in our nation's history."  

 The two will appear Saturday at a rally in Miami. They will also sit for an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes" to be aired on Sunday.  

Kaine responded on Twitter, expressing his excitement at joining the Democratic ticket.

A number of Democratic lawmakers praised the selection.  

"The Clinton-Kaine ticket is everything the Trump-Pence ticket is not: competent, steady and committed to giving all Americans a fair shot to succeed," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "As Donald Trump continues to promote his platform of hate, discrimination and dysfunction, Secretary Clinton and Senator Kaine will offer their vision for a fairer, more equal America."  

And Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, with whom Kaine has worked closely on Foreign Relations issues, offered congratulations on Twitter.

It is not certain that Clinton's choice will satisfy the progressive wing of the party that backed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the primaries and has favored firebrand Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren for the No. 2 spot.  

On Thursday, the liberal Democracy for America blasted Kaine for signing a letter in favor of loosening rules on community banks, calling his position "disqualifying for any potential Democratic vice presidential candidate."

 

Others have questioned whether the self-deprecating former governor can play an attack dog role against Trump, who accepted the Republican nomination on Thursday and immediately dug into Clinton as a failed public servant and a person of questionable character. Kaine, himself, has admitted he is "boring," but said in a recent TV interview "boring is the fastest growing demographic in this country."  

Kaine, 58, won't even say if he's ready to be commander in chief.  

"Nobody should ever say they're ready," Kaine said in the interview with NBC's "Meet the Press." "Abraham Lincoln wouldn't have said yes to that question. Harry Truman wouldn't have said yes to that question. Those are my two favorite presidents."  

Kaine's contribution to the ticket goes beyond the obvious political calculation — that as a popular former governor from a swing state, he could help put Virginia in the Democratic column for the third presidential election in a row.  

The first-term senator is known as a steady politician, one unlikely to make inflammatory remarks or steal the spotlight from the top of the ticket. As such his selection reflects Clinton's cautious, play-it-safe approach to the campaign.  

[ Virginia's Democratic Governor Would Pick Replacement ]  

His tenure as head of the Democratic National Committee gives him important context and contacts headed into a hard-fought election.  

His experience as a missionary teaching after his first year of law school sharpened his fluency in Spanish, which today gives him a measure of credibility with an important Democratic voting bloc. So does his support for immigration reform.

"Senator Kaine is no stranger to the Latino community — he spent time in Honduras running a technical Jesuit school, and throughout his career, as one of the few Spanish speakers in the Senate, he has consistently put emphasis on communicating with our community, hearing and addressing their concerns," said Pili Tobar, advocacy and communications director for Latino Victory Fund in a statement.
 

And as one of the few senators who serves on both the Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committee, Kaine has become a vocal advocate for taking the fight to terrorists abroad.  

In the Senate, he has called repeatedly for Congress to act to authorize the use of force against the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group and in Syria. Kaine has had both a substantive and procedural disagreement with the Obama administration about Syria, but he’s put significant blame on Congress for failing to act.  

[ Kaine: Inaction on ISIS AUMF 'Cowardly and Shameful' ]  

Kaine is also an advocate for tougher gun laws, given that the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech came on his watch as governor. He was one of 40 senators who participated in a June filibuster demanding that the Senate vote on gun legislation.  

Kaine has been a vocal advocate for free trade, putting him at odds with Clinton and much of the party's progressive wing on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. A practicing Catholic, Kaine also splits with Clinton on the issue of abortion. Despite his personal views, he has supported the abortion rights stances that most Democrats share.  

“I’m kind of a, look, traditional Catholic. I don’t like it personally. I’m opposed to abortion. And personally I’m opposed to the death penalty,” Kaine said in the June TV interview. “I deeply believe, and not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm.”  

“So I’ve taken a position which is quite common among Catholics. I’ve got a personal feeling about abortion, but the right role for government is to let women make their own decisions,” Kaine said.  

NARAL President Ilyse Hogue weighed in with a statement supporting Kaine, acknowledging past battles with him when he was governor of Virginia.  

"Secretary Clinton’s selection of Senator Kaine provides some much needed sanity to the out-of-control fire that was the Republican convention this week," Hogue said.   

"We trust Secretary Clinton would not select Senator Kaine, and Senator Kaine would not accept the position, if he could not fully support Secretary Clinton’s robust agenda when it comes to preserving and expanding reproductive freedom and justice."  

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who was also vetted for vice president, pointed out that both Kaine and Clinton graduated from Ivy League law schools and took jobs serving the public.

"So these are folks, the two of them, they both have similar careers starting in very humble ways of service and have consistent careers of serving," Booker said Thursday. "So I'm a Tim Kaine fan. I've said this on the record many many times. Entonces tambien habla espanol perfecto." Booker broke into Spanish saying, "Then he also speaks Spanish perfectly." 

A Jesuit Upbringing

The oldest of three brothers, Kaine was born in Minnesota. His family moved to Kansas when he was 2, settling in the Kansas City suburbs. His father ran an iron-working shop, and his mother was a home economics teacher.
 

Kaine attended an all-boys Jesuit high school, where he was the president of the student council. As a junior, he delivered money to the Honduran mission where he would later teach during a nine month break from law school.  

It was during his time as a student at Harvard Law School that Kaine met his future wife, fellow student Anne Holton. Her father, Linwood Holton Jr., was Virginia's first GOP governor in nearly a century when he was elected in 1969.  

The governor's high-profile stance against racial segregation won him supporters in the black community but little love in the Virginia Republican party, which shifted to the right after Holton's election and denied him the nomination for a Senate seat in 1978.  

Kaine cites his father-in-law as his political role model saying he “played an amazingly important role in the life of this commonwealth and in the life of this country. And he did it in a courageous way, at a political cost to himself.”  

Kaine and his wife settled in Richmond. He worked as a civil rights attorney, often handling fair housing and discrimination cases. His wife eventually became a juvenile court judge. Kaine was elected to the city council and later became mayor of Virginia's capital city.  

As governor, Kaine had the difficult task of balancing Virginia’s budget as the national economy tanked. He and the General Assembly made up more than $7 billion in shortfalls using a number of techniques, including elimination of a pay raise for state employees, tapping a “rainy day” fund and cutting spending for a number of programs. The assembly rejected a tax increase that Kaine proposed in the closing weeks of his tenure.  

[ Tim Kaine's Secret Weapon: The Harmonica ]  

When Democratic Sen. Jim Webb retired in 2012, Kaine defeated Republican George Allen, a former senator trying to reclaim his seat. Kaine took 53 percent of the vote, running several points ahead of President Barack Obama in the state.  

Kaine says he has a very good working relationship with Virginia’s senior senator, Mark Warner, who helped Kaine get his start in politics. Kaine served as Warner's lieutenant governor before succeeding him in the governor's mansion.  

“I have been a leader in some things and I’ve been a follower in some things," Kaine said in the June interview. "So I was a lieutenant governor to Mark Warner, I was a Democratic National Committee Chair to President Obama. So when I’ve (been) mayor, governor, or senator, I’ve been the main guy. But, you know, whether it’s in my, you know, in my church with the parish council or in other areas, I know how to work on a team.”  

Spoken like a true candidate for vice president.  

The report includes excerpts from the Congressional Quarterly profile. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.