WHO IS TIM KAINE?
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton made an announcement last week that she had chosen someone to be her vice presidential running mate for her party’s ticket, and that someone is Tim Kaine, the junior U.S. senator from Virginia.
Ostensibly a liberal and a progressive, Kaine has a few minor qualities that might endear him to conservative voters, however, not enough to make him any more than a “centrist” candidate in the opinion of political insiders, even among those who skew liberal.
As far as Clinton’s possible vice presidential picks, Kaine was a “safe choice,” having a track record of sticking to as many liberal positions on average as current vice president Joe Biden.
Clinton chose him over a number of other possible contenders, including Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, current Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and current Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
Previously, Kaine had been on President Barack Obama’s shortlist for vice president in 2008—a list that also included Hillary Clinton before she ended up running against Obama.
Kaine grew up in Kansas City and went to college in Missouri, followed by law school at Harvard in 1980 where he met his future wife. In 1980 and 1981, he traveled to Honduras to work with Jesuit missionaries, learning to speak Spanish along the way. He’s currently a member of a nearly all-black Catholic congregation at a cathedral in Richmond in his home state of Virginia.
Kaine practiced law in Virginia for 17 years, ultimately winning a $100 million verdict against an insurance company in a discrimination lawsuit. Like Barack Obama, Kaine started teaching law at one of the most prestigious law schools in his state.
He ran for city council in Richmond and served on it for four terms, including two as mayor. As Richmond’s first white mayor in ten years, Kaine spoke frequently about race reconciliation and apologized for Richmond’s role in slavery. He supported efforts to digitize post-Civil War records relating to former slaves; however, he also favored including a portrait of Robert E. Lee in a group of historic murals placed on the city’s floodwalls.
As mayor, he worked with state attorneys to make many gun crimes federal, rather than state cases, resulting in longer prison sentences. Controversially, he spent $6,000 in public funds for the Million Mom March, an event combating gun violence in Washington, D.C. When this fact was made public, Kaine reimbursed the city for the amount.
In 2002, Kaine ran for and won the office of Lieutenant Governor of Virginia under Democratic Governor (and now U.S. Senator) Mark Warner. He was sworn in by his wife, who by this time was a Virginia state judge.
In 2005, Kaine ran for and won the office of Governor of Virginia, narrowly beating Republican candidate Jerry W. Kilgore, formerly the state’s attorney general. Kilgore had made claims that Kaine believed that “Hitler [didn’t] qualify for the death penalty” and discussed Kaine’s work as a death-row defense attorney 10 years prior to his campaign. For his part, Kaine claimed that he did personally oppose the death penalty, but would enforce it as part of the law if he became governor.
After his loss to Kaine, Kilgore partly blamed his defeat on the appearance of less-than-popular President George W. Bush at a rally Kilgore had held on the last day before the election. In 2006, Kaine gave the Democratic rebuttal to the Bush’s 2006 State of the Union address. In it, he criticized the No Child Left Behind Act and condemned Bush for his tax cuts and for his actions in the then-ongoing Iraq War. As governor, Kaine helped the State of Virginia protect more than 400,000 acres of land from private development.
In 2009, Kaine supported mountaintop removal coal mining restrictions put in place by the Obama administration. He also set up the state’s Climate Change Commission to study global warming. It’s worth noting that Kaine’s successor, Republican Governor Robert F. McDonnell, shuttered this commission, but it was later revived by his successor, current Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat.
In 2007, Kaine signed legislation requiring schoolgirls to be immunized against the HPV virus while in middle school. He cut off funding for state-sponsored abstinence-only sex-ed programs, instead favoring curriculum that included teaching about contraception.
In 2009, Kaine made Virginia the first Southern state to ban smoking in restaurants and bars. In 2007, in the wake of the Virginia Tech school shooting, Kaine gave an executive order blocking guns sales to patients of mental health treatment centers. Kaine later opposed expanding his state’s death penalty.
While Kaine was governor, Virginia’s unemployment rate more than doubled to 7.4 percent from 3.2 percent. During his term, tuition for the state’s public universities increased and highway rest stops were closed in an effort to balance the state’s budget. He proposed more than $4 billion worth of tax increases, all of which were voted down by the state’s legislature. Some of those taxes were for state-financed transportation projects, which the Republican-led state senate supported, but did not want to fund with increased state-wide taxes.
In 2009, Barack Obama appointed Kaine Chair of the Democratic National Committee. Kaine oversaw an expansion of the party’s grassroots base through the progressive community group Organizing for America.
In 2011, Kaine spoke to union leaders in Madison, Wisconsin, who were fighting (along with former President Bill Clinton) Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s union bargaining limitation legislation. Under Kaine, Organizing for America got involved in that battle but ultimately lost after three years and bitter court litigation.
In 2012, Kaine ran for the U.S. Senate seat for Virginia being vacated by Democrat Jim Webb. He narrowly defeated Republican former Governor and Senator of Virginia George Allen by five percentage points. Kaine is on record as being in support of President Obama’s military actions against ISIS in the Middle East as well as Obama’s Iranian nuclear deal finalized in 2015.
In 2013, Kaine backed the “Gang of Eight” immigrant amnesty bill co-sponsored by Florida Senator Marco Rubio and supported by Texas Senator Ted Cruz. In fact, Kaine gave a speech on the Senate floor entirely in Spanish supporting the legislation, the first such floor speech given in a language that was not English.
In the Senate, Kaine is known as a micro-manager and a policy wonk and is regarded as being generally media savvy. In press interviews, Kaine has described himself as “boring,” but his background apparently made him interesting enough for Bill Clinton to reportedly recommend him to his wife as her vice presidential pick. Three conservative public policy groups — the Club for Growth, Heritage Action and the American Conservative Union — all gave Kaine zero percent approval ratings prior to 2016 while liberal group Americans for Democratic Action gave him a 90 percent approval rating in 2014.
The New York Times describes Kaine as an “old-fashioned liberal… driven by Jesuit ideals.”
Kaine appears to be hypocritical on some issues such as abortion, which he personally opposes on religious grounds but nonetheless supports in terms of limiting the ability of government to interfere with women’s right to choose. He has said, “I’m a strong supporter of Roe vs. Wade and women being able to make these decisions.”
He praised an amendment to the 2012 Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare) that allowed insurers to pay for abortions even when a woman’s employer was a religious organization objecting to abortion. He has received perfect approval rating scores from both Planned Parenthood and abortion rights group NARAL. Conservative group The National Right to Life Committee awarded him a zero score.
Kaine helped pass Obamacare and remains a strong supporter of it.
Kaine has favored same-sex marriage and child adoption and is in favor of employment laws barring discrimination based on sexual orientation. He is strongly pro-Union, with a 96 percent lifetime approval rating from the AFL-CIO. Kaine favors an increase in the minimum wage and is a free-trade advocate who has been a proponent of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which has cost America millions of manufacturing jobs.
He is a supporter of Obama’s immigration programs which would allow amnesty and permanent resident status for up to five million undocumented immigrants.
Like President Obama, he is in favor of normalization of relations with communist Cuba, and like Hillary Clinton, he desires no-fly zones in war-torn Syria.
Kaine is a gun owner who nonetheless favors expanding background checks for gun purchases on the Internet and at gun shows. He is an outspoken advocate of prohibiting “combat-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.” He has received an “F” rating from the National Rifle Association while simultaneously scoring a 100 percent approval rating from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
All of these reasons and more should help conservatives realize who the real Tim Kaine is and what he stands for. He may be a “dull” and “safe” choice for Hillary Clinton to run with, but having him in the second-highest office in the land is unacceptable; defeating him in November is just as high a priority as taking down the Clintons.