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“Education was the key to everything we wanted to achieve as a state [when I was governor of Virginia], and it’s the key to everything we want to achieve as a nation.”
Though Tim Kaine initially rose to prominence as Hillary Clinton’s running mate in her 2016 presidential campaign, the Virginia senator is much more than a former VP hopeful. Kaine was born to a home economics teacher and welder in Minnesota, though he spent the majority of his childhood in Kansas City, Missouri. As a teen he worked nights at his father’s small iron shop, and spent his days on the debate team. He left home to study economics at the University of Missouri, graduating summa cum laude in just three years, and later went on to Harvard Law. Kaine paused his studies at Harvard in 1980 to assist at a vocational school in Honduras, where he taught carpentry and welding and became fluent in Spanish. When he returned to law school, he met his wife Anne Holton and after graduation relocated to her hometown in Virginia, the state where he would later become a senator. After a stint clerking for a judge in Macon, Georgia, Kaine returned to Richmond to practice law, specializing in fair housing cases, disability law, and racial discrimination suits. During this time he regularly represented clients pro bono and helped to found the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness. After two terms on the Richmond City Council, Kaine was elected to the mayoral office in 1998. Though most on the council believed the role to be largely ceremonial, Kaine took on the position with a strong sense of responsibility, initiating laws that reduced gun violence and increased home ownership. With the backing of State Senator Emily Couric, who dropped out of the race due to a cancer diagnosis, Kaine entered the Virginia lieutenant gubernatorial race in 2001 and won. After a single term, Kaine ran for the governorship in 2005. Despite the fact that many considered him an underdog against his Republican opponent Jerry Kilgore, a former state attorney general, Kaine prevailed.
During his time in office, Kaine fought to protect public land from development, and founded the state’s first bipartisan Climate Change Commission. After the tragic Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, Kaine helped to pass more restrictive gun control laws and invested over $45 million in the state’s mental healthcare system. He was praised for his handling of the 2008 “Great Recession,” with Virginia avoiding most of the deep unemployment much of the U.S. was experiencing at the time. Kaine also worked to expand Virginia’s early childhood education program, increasing enrollment by over 40 percent. After serving for four years as the governor of Virginia, Kaine announced his run for the state’s open Senate seat. He made headlines for filming campaign videos in both English and Spanish, and went on to defeat his opponent George Allen, also a former governor. Following a vice presidential run alongside Clinton in 2016, where the two won the popular vote but failed to achieve a majority in the electoral college, Kaine ran once again for Senate in 2018 and won by a wide margin. Though he was once described by the New York Times as a “centrist” in a “hyperpartisan Washington,” Kaine considers himself a “utility player”— someone who can take on a number of roles and positions for the good of his team. This kind of flexibility and commitment to old-fashioned progressivism is something that makes Kaine an MVP for Virginia Democrats, and the Senate as a whole.
Caitlin Lent is a staff writer and media director for Weekly Senator. She is also a journalist and photographer. Born and raised in Deep River, Connecticut, she now lives and works in New York City.
Kaine’s liberal political ideology is often driven by his Jesuit beliefs, but that doesn’t mean he lets dogma get in the way of what is right. Though a Roman Catholic himself who personally opposes abortion, he advocates that the government should stay out of the way of reproductive rights. Kaine believes in reducing unplanned pregnancies through comprehensive sex education, and has received perfect scores from reproductive rights groups Planned Parenthood and NARAL. He has continuously fought against the ruling of the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. FEC, believing the infusion of big money into politics has led to “disastrous” results. Kaine strongly opposes the death penalty, and co-sponsored legislation banning it at the federal level in the wake of Attorney General William Barr’s announcement that the Justice Department would resume executions of death-row inmates. Despite owning firearms himself, Kaine supports common sense gun control legislation, and co-sponsored a 2017 bill to close a loophole that allowed those accused of domestic violence to purchase guns and ammunition. Kaine is also a supporter of DACA as well as broader comprehensive immigration reforms, like providing a pathway to citizenship for other undocumented immigrants. Kaine’s voting record in the Senate proves that a religious commitment does not need to override the best interests of his constituents, a position his evangelical colleagues across the aisle would be wise to take on.
“Too many Americans have been held back by the high costs of lifesaving insulin. That’s why we capped insulin prices for people on Medicare in the Inflation Reduction Act — and why I’ve cosponsored \[Senator Raphael Warnock’s] bill to further cap insulin costs.”
“We need to make job training more affordable to help Americans access good-paying jobs created by the infrastructure and CHIPS bills. \[Senator Rob Portman] and I are pushing to pass our JOBS Act to make high-quality job training programs eligible for federal Pell Grants, lowering costs.”
“We need to elect more Democrats and pass my bill to enshrine a woman’s right to abortion and contraception in federal law.”