Former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine was “surprised” when U.S. Sen. Jim Webb announced in Feburary 2011 that he would not seek re-election.
Kaine had hinted after finishing out his term as governor in 2010 that he might be done with electoral politics, even as he stepped at the time into the job of chairman of the Democratic National Committee at the behest of President Barack Obama.
It wasn’t hard to figure out why. At the time, Webb and Mark Warner, both Democrats, held the state’s seats in the United States Senate, and with Virginia governors prohibited by state law for running for re-election, the next chance he seemed to have would have been another run for governor in 2013, as unlikely as it would be to see that happen.
So when Webb decided to step aside from a run for re-election in 2012, Kaine had an opening, and it didn’t take him long to decide to step up to the challenge.
“The country has a lot of big challenges. Congress is in a very significant dysfunction, not able to work together. The experiences that I’ve been able to develop as a mayor of Richmond and governor give me some skills and ideas toward how to fix Washington,” Kaine said.
Kaine said we can make the national economy strong by “following the Virginia lesson.” “Get the talent piece right,” said Kaine, pushing the idea that there needs to be a newfound emphasis on education, workforce development and research and development.
Virginia has done that in the last 20 years, and that, Kaine said, is why the state’s economy has been so consistently strong.
Kaine was critical of the emphasis on drilling and energy development of likely Republican Senate opponent George Allen. “If we do everything right on energy, but we keep slipping on talent against the other nations of the world, we’re not going to like what we see,” Kaine said.
Kaine also touted his record as governor in bringing state spending in line against that of Allen, on whose watch spending in Richmond went up sharply, a trend that continued in Washington during Allen’s term as a United States senator.
“When I was governor, state spending was less than when I started. When my opponent was governor, he increased state spending by 45 percent, and then he went to the Senate, and started with historic surpluses, and by the time he left, we had the biggest deficits in the history of the United States,” Kaine said.
Kaine promised to be a team player in the Senate. “Everybody has got their own political style. My style has been, Let’s get together and solve problems. My opponent’s has been a little more, as he once famously said, We want to knock the other guy’s teeth down their whiny throats. We don’t need more of that in Washington. We need less of that in Washington,” Kaine said.