“I’m running for the United States Senate because America has big challenges, and I’m convinced that Virginia has answers to help strengthen our nation,” Kaine said in a video released today that announced his candidacy for the Democratic Party nomination.
The entry of Kaine into the race sets up a possible heavyweight clash with another former governor, Republican George Allen, who was upset in 2006 in his first re-election run by Webb.
Webb announced earlier this year that he will not seek a second term in the Senate in the 2012 election.
“As governor, I helped lead Virginia through the toughest economy in seventy years,” Kaine said in the video announcement. “We cut billions from the state budget, tightened our belt, and made government more efficient. We also invested in key priorities like education, Rail to Dulles, cleaning the Bay, and saving open space. We recruited companies like Ikea, Volkswagen, Hilton, Mead-Westvaco, and Rolls Royce to Virginia and were named America’s Best Managed State, Best State for Business, and the Best State to Raise a Child.”
The Allen campaign didn’t waste time getting out the first attack of what promises to be a long and brutal campaign between the two. Allen campaign spokesperson Katie Wright, referring to Kaine as “Chairman Kaine,” an allusion to his current job as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said Kaine’s tenure as governor was marked by “proposals calling for staggering tax increases and by substantial job losses for Virginians” and that his tenure in the DNC has lined him up with “liberal Washington allies like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi as they imposed their harmful agenda on Virginia and America, making trillion dollar deficits the norm and loading our children with the burden of an unprecedented national debt.”
“Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid may be friends of Chairman Kaine, but they are no friends of Virginia families and job-creating business owners. While we know he will look to his Washington allies for help and guidance in his campaign, George Allen will continue to listen to the families of Virginia and work hard to earn the right to represent their voices, views and values in the U.S. Senate,” Wright said.
The Kaine campaign shot back across the bow. Senior Kaine campaign advisor Mo Elleithee called it “unfortunate” that Allen “resorted to name calling so early in this campaign.”
“Virginians deserve a Senator who will focus on our nation’s economic challenges and will bring more civility to Washington,” Elleithee said. “We agree that Virginians will have a clear choice in this race. As governor, Tim Kaine cut $7 billion from the state budget, and Virginia was named the Best Managed State in the Nation, Best State for Business four years in a row, and Best State in Which to Raise a Child – all during the worst recession in decades. On the other side will be a candidate who supported the policies that led to record unemployment and took America’s largest budget surplus and turned it into America’s largest federal deficit –helping to create the worst recession in decades. There will be plenty of time in the coming months to have this debate, once we know who our opponent will be. We look forward to it, and in the meantime, wish all of our potential opponents well.”
The Kaine-Allen race looks to be neck-and-neck more than a year and half out from November 2012. A survey done by Public Policy Polling released in March had Kaine and Allen at 47 percent each, with the tie representing a bit of improvement for Allen, who trailed Kaine in a November 2010 PPP poll by six points.
One advantage for Kaine is that unlike Allen, who faces a potentially nasty battle for his party’s nomination, Kaine enters the 2012 cycle with the unified support of Virginia Democratic Party leaders.
“Tim Kaine is a rarity in modern politics: He listens more than he talks, and he builds bridges where others seek to divide us,” said U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., Kaine’s predecessor as governor. “I have known and admired Tim since we first met in law school more than 30 years ago. Tim was a great working partner when he served as Virginia’s lieutenant governor and governor. He is a great friend and a proven leader, and I would welcome his partnership in the U.S. Senate on behalf of all Virginians.”
“I am pleased that my friend Tim Kaine has decided to bring his strong record of results-oriented leadership to a campaign for the U.S. Senate,” Democratic Party of Virginia chair Brian Moran said. “As governor he made Virginia the best state for business, the best-managed state and the best state in the country to raise a child for lifetime success, and he will make a fantastic candidate to replace Sen. Jim Webb.
“This campaign will provide offer a real contrast between Democratic leadership that puts working families first, and a slate of Republican candidates that are running on a Tea Party platform that has more to do with proving who has the most radical ideas than it does with making people’s lives better,” Moran said. “No matter which candidate wins the Tea Party nomination, I am looking forward to having a real conversation with Virginians about who offers them the best shot at a Commonwealth that is more equal, more just and more prosperous for all.”
Kaine let fellow partisans do the dirty work today.
“When we attack common obstacles instead of each other, we solve problems and get things done. We’ve got to be unified and creative in this tough and competitive world to expand jobs and educational opportunities in a fiscally responsible way. That’s what I did as governor, and that’s what I’ll do as your senator,” Kaine said.
Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at [email protected].