On Friday, Hillary Clinton announced that she had chosen Tim Kaine, a Democratic senator from Virginia, to be her vice presidential nominee in the 2016 election. The pick was met with reactions ranging from "he's a safe pair of hands" to "he's not progressive enough," but one of the biggest reactions was, "Who is Tim Kaine?"
Well, he's white and he's boring, but here are some more things you should know.
A career politician
Tim Kaine, a senator from Virginia (a swing state), was elected to the senate in 2012. He served as governor of Virginia for four years before that, from 2006-2010. He was in the running as a potential VP pick for President Obama in 2008. White House press secretary Josh Ernst said on Wednesday that Obama would recommend Kaine as a VP pick. Kaine is also a former DNC Chair and served as mayor of Richmond, Virginia from 1998–2001.
A rebuke to the party's progressive wing?
Kaine's critics contend he has set himself up as a centrist Democrat willing to "do battle" with his party's progressive flank. In recent weeks Kaine has supported the deregulation of certain segments of the banking sector—long a core issue for Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and the sort of move that is sure to frustrate their supporters, who may be lukewarm on Clinton already. For instance, Kaine has come out in support of the highly contentious Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal—which Clinton is on record as opposing in its current form—voting recently in favor of granting Obama "fast track" authority to negotiate the deal, the New York Times reported. He has, however, spoken emotionally on the issue of gun violence, and the need for stricter legislation. He has also introduced legislation to increase the federal minimum wage.
A controversial record on abortion
Kaine’s record on abortion has been raised as a potential weak point. An observant Catholic, he’s said repeatedly that he doesn’t personally believe in abortion, though he supports Roe v. Wade and voted against last year’s bid by Senate Republicans to pass a bill defunding Planned Parenthood.
In 2009, Kaine approved a bill that allowed “Choose Life” license plates in Virginia. The New York Times reported at the time that funds from those plates were directed toward Heartbeat International, a Christian anti-abortion group running “pregnancy crisis” centers in the state with a pro-life agenda. He also supported a parental consent law during his term as governor, abstinence-based sex education, and opposed partial-birth abortion. These were the policies laid out on his website in 2005:
- Enforcing the current Virginia restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother;
- Fighting teen pregnancy through abstinence-focused education;
- Ensuring women's access to health care (including legal contraception) and economic opportunity; and
- Promoting adoption as an alternative for women facing unwanted pregnancies.
But pro-life groups which once labeled him a “pro-life Democrat” have withdrawn their support for him in recent years. Democrats for Life of America took him off their list of pro-life senators in 2012. In their statement, they referred to his record before 2012 as having been “a friend to the DFLA.”
On Meet the Press just last month he said, “You know, I would say, people use labels all the time. But I'm kind of a, look, traditional Catholic. I don't like it personally. I'm opposed to abortion. And personally I'm opposed to the death penalty.”
Kaine supports immigration reform. In 2013, he gave the first speech ever delivered completely in Spanish on the Senate floor in support of an immigration reform bill. A Spanish speaker from his time living in Honduras working on a Jesuit mission, Kaine has committed to helping Clinton pass immigration reform within her first 100 days in office. At a recent campaign event with Clinton, he told the crowd: "There’s going to be a mandate that’s going to be sent that will say on this clear difference, the American public has a preference, and the preference isn’t division and isn’t treat Latinos as second class, whether they immigrated yesterday or they are a Latina governor of New Mexico or are a respected federal judge."
Race and civil rights
Though he worked as a fair housing lawyer in Richmond, VA Kaine has been fairly muted when it comes to many of the more recent issues issues surrounding race and equality.
In one seemingly rare intervention, Kaine spoke to local station WTVR in January about the gaps between black and white communities in the United States, framing them in the economic terms of wealth accumulation. "If you think about our history as a nation," he said, "you know for 5/8 of our history Africans were enslaved. For 2/8 of our history, Africans were legally, not enslaved, but second class. And only for 1/8 of this history have African Americans had full equality. Well, over time they've not had the opportunities to accumulate wealth."
Kaine enacted legislation while he was governor of Virginia defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. He later said he would work to repeal that amendment. At the same time, he enacted legislation aimed at protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination in the workplace. Most recently, he was among a group of senators who wrote to the Department of Education urging them to issue guidance to school districts to protect the rights of LGBTQ people after North Carolina’s “bathroom bill” took effect.
He also campaigned against allowing same-sex couples to adopt children when he was running for governor, saying that only married people should be able to adopt. He later reversed that position.
Kaine has made foreign and defense policy a central focus of his political career. He sits on the Senate Foreign Relations and Senate Armed Services committees. Kaine has tacked both left and right on international affairs during his time in the Senate. For instance, he has waged what Foreign Policy called a "relentless and at times lonely campaign" for a formal declaration of war against Islamic State—something supported by many liberals who fear the precedent set by an ever-widening anti-ISIS campaign that has been waged without explicit Congressional authorization. But, as Mother Jones pointed out, he's also taken hawkish positions, such as his call for a no-fly zone in Syria—a policy also favored by the notably hawkish Clinton.
The League of Conservation Voters gave Kaine an 88% score for his 2015 record and a 91% lifetime score. That’s in part because he’s opposed to the Keystone XL Pipeline, and supports carbon pollution limits and clean energy tax credits.