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Tim Kaine Looks to State Elder in Quest for Senate

David Crigger/Bristol Herald Courier/AP
Zenith Fuel Systems plant manager Chet Zinnanti (center) talks with Democratic Senate candidate Tim Kaine (left) and Sen. Mark Warner at the plant in Bristol, Va., on Thursday.

“We’ve got to have more people like Mark Warner in the Senate who are willing to be proud Democrats — proud of their values, proud of their principles — but when the election is over you’ve got to be reaching out and building a bridge, and that’s the kind of Senator I’ll be,” Kaine said at the rally.

Warner was prominently featured in a video the Kaine campaign released Monday with clips from the two-day, economy-focused tour.

Republicans in the state say they don’t mind the comparison. Chris LaCivita, a GOP strategist and former Allen adviser, said Warner’s votes in favor of the health care overhaul and other Democratic policies are indeed a good example of what voters can expect from Kaine.

“This is a guy who is trying to hide from the fact that he was Barack Obama’s and Nancy Pelosi’s and Harry Reid’s chief cheerleader as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee,” LaCivita said of Kaine. “You can run from your past, but we will not let you hide from it.”

Kaine senior adviser Mo Elleithee said Kaine’s time as DNC chairman is only a small part of his record, and the campaign will continue to remind voters of his long record as a Richmond city councilman and mayor, lieutenant governor, and governor. Voters who spoke with Roll Call following the two Charlottesville events came away impressed and said they trusted the pair to work together with Republicans.

“I do believe they want to get things done,” said Ron Cottrell, 53, a self-described independent. “If we change some key players out, maybe we can build some momentum.”

“I think that Kaine and Sen. Warner, they both talk like adults,” Jeff Boecker, 59, said after the rally. “And I think we need more people like that up there. Neither one of them is a flaming partisan to me. They’re both willing to make the hard choices people need to make.”

Kaine’s not the only candidate in the race highlighting his willingness to work across the aisle. On April 4, Allen spoke to small gatherings of supporters in Culpeper and Madison, just up Route 29 from Charlottesville, which Allen represented in the House for about a year after winning a 1991 special election.

Allen focused his stump speech on increasing domestic energy production, which he said Kaine has worked against, while supporters at both stops voiced concerns about the effects of Obama’s health care plan and deficit spending. He promised to be a deciding vote to repeal the health care law, to push for a balanced budget amendment and to unleash the state’s energy resources, one of the big issues he will focus on in the Senate.

The former Senator, who spoke more about what he will do than what he did in his one term in the Senate, said he sees potential Democratic partners on energy legislation in Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.), Mark Begich (Alaska) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.). He called his 2006 loss to Webb “humbling” and said the party needs to welcome “independents and sound-thinking Democrats” in order to win.

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