Jennie Lynn Price
Capital News Service
Tim Kaine spoke to a gathering of college Democrats in Williamsburg this week in one of his first public appearances as a newly-minted candidate for the U.S. Senate.
The former Virginia governor addressed a crowd of nearly 200 at the Virginia Young Democrats’ annual convention on the College of William and Mary campus. During the breakfast speech, Kaine emphasized his support of education and outlined plans for his upcoming campaign.
Last week, after much speculation, Kaine announced his intentions to run for the Senate seat held by fellow Democrat Jim Webb.
When Webb announced his retirement plans in February, Kaine was chairman of the Democratic National Committee – a post he has now resigned to make his Senate run.
Kaine expressed his reluctance to leave his job as DNC chairman, saying his plans had been to focus on getting President Barack Obama re-elected in 2012.
Ultimately, Kaine decided to embrace the opportunity to run.
“If I ran and lost, I’d feel bad,” he said. “But if I didn’t run and the seat went the other way, I’d feel worse. I’ve got to be on the battlefield in this race.”
Kaine did not shy away from his association with the president. He remarked several times how proud he was of Obama’s 2008 election.
“We’ve had some candidates holding the president at arm’s length,” he said. “If you’re a Democrat, you’ve got to stay true to who you are.”
Kaine told the crowd of young supporters that one of his goals after his 2005 election as governor was to make Virginia competitive in presidential politics.
People pay attention to Virginia now, he said.
“We’ve taken a state that was a political afterthought in national politics, and we’ve made it right at the center of American political life,” Kaine said. “Everybody’s got to pay attention to us and that’s something I feel enormously happy about – and you should too.”
Kaine said he will focus in his campaign on such topics as jobs and the economy, fiscal responsibility and balance and civility.
Commenting on the recent government shutdown threat, Kaine said, “Anybody who uses a shutdown of government as a negotiating tool is not being fiscally responsible – they’re being irresponsible.”
Kaine is the only Democrat officially seeking the Senate seat.
Two candidates are competing for the Republican nomination: George Allen, himself a former Virginia governor, and Jamie Radtke, an activist in the tea party movement.
Allen held the Senate seat from 2001-2007 before losing it to Webb. That campaign is infamous for a derogatory remark made by Allen regarding a Webb volunteer.
The 2012 race is important because it may help determine control of the Senate, where Democrats hold a 53-47 majority.
“It’s no time to turn back. It’s no time to rest. It’s no time to be complacent,” Kaine said. “We’ve got to keep battling, and I will keep battling.”