Tim Kaine, it’s about time

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In 2005, Democrat Tim Kaine ran for governor of Virginia in a three-way race against Jerry Kilgore, a conservative Republican, and Russ Potts, a moderate Republican turned Independent.  In what was perhaps a prototypical race of urban versus rural interests in modern Virginia politics, the race pitted Kaine, a Richmond resident, against Kilgore from Southwest Virginia and Potts from Winchester.

In those days, my view of Kaine was largely influenced by the fact that he’d been mayor of Richmond from 1998 to 2001.  Then as now, Virginia’s capital city had long been politically and otherwise dysfunctional.  It was hard to see how having served as a mayor of Richmond was a great qualification.

After the ballots were counted, Kaine won with 52 percent of the vote, garnering 113,000 more votes than Kilgore.  Potts, arguably one of Virginia’s last moderate Republicans, was not exactly a spoiler, receiving fewer than 44,000 votes.

In hindsight Kaine’s early political career is instructive.  

In Richmond, city politics have long been a politics of race.  In 1998, city council chose the mayor from its own ranks.  Kaine was elected by a black-majority council to be the first white mayor in 10 years, one of only two in the previous 20 years.  This speaks well of Kaine’s ability to work successfully across the lines of a racially divided electorate.

Eight years ago, as Kaine’s days in Virginia’s Executive Mansion were winding down, he was high on Barack Obama’s short list of potential vice-presidential running mates but was ultimately passed over in favor of Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware. This choice was reportedly a result of Biden’s long-term congressional and foreign policy experience.

After a successful 2012 race to represent Virginia in the U.S. Senate, Kaine quickly began to burnish his credentials, joining Senate committees on armed services, the budget and foreign relations.
One of Kaine’s signature efforts in the Senate has been the attempt to repeal and replace the War Powers Resolution with new legislation designed to ensure greater consultation between the president and Congress before committing troops to war.

The proposed legislation, introduced in 2014 and co-sponsored by Republican Sen. John McCain, is designed to restore the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches.  The War Powers Resolution was originally passed in 1973 in an attempt to constrain the executive branch’s ability to fight an undeclared war in Vietnam.

On foreign trade, Kaine has been a supporter of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and has also supported fast tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  Fast tracking would allow the president to put the entire agreement before Congress for an up-or-down vote rather than dealing with its terms on a piecemeal basis.

Most recently, Kaine has said that he does not support the TPP in its current form. Among the many oddities of the 2016 elections is the fact that Republicans and Democrats alike have been reversing their support for free trade, historically an area of rare agreement between the two parties.

An important distinction exists between support for trade agreements and Kaine’s support for fast-tracking TPP.  Much like the War Powers Resolution, fast tracking of trade agreements preserves the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government.  Kaine’s work on preserving this bedrock principle of our Constitution should be admired.

Since his selection as Hillary Clinton’s running mate, various pundits have chided Kaine as being either too moderate or too progressive.  It is somewhat hard to imagine that a candidate who has received a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood and an “F” from the National Rifle Association might be considered too moderate.  I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective.

Perhaps Kaine comes across as moderate because he’s learned his Virginia manners well.  He’s confident in his positions, doesn’t shy away from engagement and works well across the aisle.  This is called statesmanship — a quality that of late has been in short supply.

Despite being known as the mother of presidents, Virginia hasn’t seen one of its own selected as a major party candidate in 100 years. Staunton-born Woodrow Wilson was nominated and elected to his second term as president in 1916.

Wilson spent his early years in Georgia and South Carolina and was serving as governor of New Jersey in 1912 when elected to his first term as president.

Kaine, born in Minnesota and raised in Kansas, came to Virginia in 1983 by virtue of his wife, Anne Holton, the daughter of former Virginia Gov. Linwood Holton.  Surely by now we can call him one of our own.

After a century-long drought for Virginia, with Tim Kaine — it’s about time.

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