On a rainy Saturday in January 2006, I drove five of my Hampton University journalism students 30 miles west to Williamsburg to witness the extraordinary: Because the state house in Richmond was being renovated, the inauguration of a new Virginia governor took place in the former Colonial capital. The new leader was Tim Kaine, the former lieutenant governor and second consecutive Democrat elected chief executive of a so-called conservative and Republican-dominated state.
The next time I witnessed Kaine in person was four months later at Hampton U.’s 2006 commencement. He urged nearly 1,000 graduates to help others and told a brief story of his time as a young man and missionary in Honduras. The father of an indigenous family offered Kaine some of the family’s limited food. Kaine said he didn’t need the food, yet he did not refuse it. He realized he should not reject the generosity – and dignity – of the poor people he was serving.
The last time I saw Kaine up close was some years later at U.S. Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott’s Labor Day cookout and political rally in Newport News. If you are a Democrat running for office in the Commonwealth, or you currently in office, the Virginia 3rd District Democrat’s event was a must attend. At that time, Kaine was about to join gubernatorial predecessor Mark Warner in the U.S. Senate.
Kaine was an ensemble player in a sea of Democratic Party movers and shakers.
That brings us to this weekend. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton named Kaine as her running mate. It’s annoying to hear the media elite report that Kaine is not well known to the public, even as the claims are probably true. Kaine has a wide and deep record and resume: Missionary, civil rights lawyer, city councilman, mayor [of a majority black city and old capital of the Confederacy], lieutenant governor, governor, Democratic National Committee boss and U.S. senator.
Kaine was the man who raised lots of money for 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama, and helped the future president win Virginia for the Democrats for the first time in 44 years.
At the moment, skeptics and adversaries criticize Kaine as an “insider” and “too safe” to be a heartbeat away from the Oval Office. Kaine has the character, competence and calm for the job. The Midwestern transplant may seem odd in this era of carnival barker and crackpot candidates, who are marketed disingenuously as populist reformers. Kaine, meanwhile, is a left-of-center moderate who advocates for his camp,
but can work civilly with right-of-center adversaries.
Kaine is principled. He disagrees with Obama on how much power the commander-in-chief has to wage war. Meanwhile, Kaine has challenged Republicans and Democrats in the Senate to man up [yes, that goes for women too] to take a vote and give the president the authority to take the fight to Islamic State, al Qaida and other enemies.
Kaine is an advocate for political courage. He told The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, “As dysfunctional as the Richmond City Council was, you had to vote on the record on everything. You couldn’t kill a bill in committee. Didn’t have a voice vote. We were on the record on everything we did. And we were accountable for everything we did – good or bad. You couldn’t hide from a vote.”
Not the case however in Congress, or previously in the Virginia General Assembly. “It’s almost as if the higher you go,” said Kaine, “the more ways they’ve perfected taking action without being held accountable.”
I have observed Tim Kaine for a decade, since that rainy January in Williamsburg. Kaine’s character, tenacity and leadership style render him qualified for the White House.