Progressive Voice: Tim Kaine From an Arlington Perspective

Larry RobertsProgressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or 

By all accounts, Virginia’s Senator Tim Kaine is on the short list that Hillary Clinton will consider in choosing her Vice Presidential running mate. We will likely learn of her decision on the eve of the Democratic National Convention that will be held in Philadelphia in late July.

These accounts should come as no surprise since Kaine was also among the three final VP choices that Barack Obama considered in 2008 before selecting Joe Biden as his running mate.

Since that time, Kaine has completed a successful term as Virginia Governor, served as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee working collaboratively with the President, won a Senate election against a former senator and governor, and earned a reputation as an effective senator with service on the armed services, foreign relations, and budget committees.

In addition, he announced his support for Hillary Clinton in May 2014, before she even announced she was running for President. And he campaigned for Hillary in the 2016 Virginia primary, which she won with over 64 percent of the vote.

The perspective I would like to share is an Arlington perspective about Tim Kaine. The connections are many. Here are a few.

In 2001, Kaine was serving as Mayor of Richmond and was supporting Yorktown High School graduate Emily Couric in her quest to become the first woman to serve as Virginia’s Lt. Governor. Sadly, Emily had to withdraw from the race due to the onset of her fatal bout with cancer.

With Emily’s encouragement, Tim decided to run for Lt. Governor. He was quickly joined in the race by two popular members of the House of Delegates.

I was serving as Chair of the Arlington Democrats at the time. One afternoon, I received a call from Tim’s long-time assistant asking if I could arrange for the Mayor of Richmond to meet with some Arlington grass roots volunteers. On short notice, we pulled together a group to meet the next day.

That was my first encounter with Tim Kaine. At that meeting, Kaine displayed the authenticity, intelligence, wit, empathy, and competitiveness that I came to know well over the years. All of us were very impressed, particularly with a story about his service on Richmond’s City Council.

Kaine had grown tired of the racial divides affecting City Council. As a result, he ran against an incumbent for a seat on City Council together with African-American reform candidates. He told us that before he took office there had been many votes on Council that were divided completely along racial lines. But with the help of other new Council members, he brought people together so that there had never been a vote split on racial lines during his tenure on Council and as Mayor.

Among Kaine’s early supporters in Arlington for the Democratic primary were Paul Ferguson, Peg Hogan, Ed Fendley, and Jody Olson. I apologize to others I haven’t mentioned.

Kaine went on to win the three-way primary with 40 percent of the statewide vote. Arlington turned out to be one of his strongest jurisdictions with 52 percent of the Democratic primary vote. Only four other jurisdictions gave Kaine more votes than the 2,910 votes he received in Arlington.

Kaine went on to win a close general election race in 2001. He won by a more comfortable margin in the 2005 Governor’s race and again in the 2012 U.S. Senate race.

As Governor, Kaine appointed three Arlingtonians to his Cabinet and focused intently on issues of importance in Arlington, including transportation, land use, economic development (helping to keep DARPA in Arlington), education (notably advancing pre-K), and conservation.

During my years in the Governor’s office, there were many significant developments and events.

Importantly, I remember how the Governor treated his staff and the tone he set. No matter what had happened the day before, the Governor came to the office with a spirit of trying to make positive things happen for the Commonwealth. He was energetic, optimistic, and well prepared.

We knew that it was our obligation as staff to work hard, be honest, and keep the needs and interests of Virginia residents firmly in mind. If we met those goals, Tim Kaine would support our efforts whether we accomplished all of our objectives or not.

I was proud to serve with Tim Kaine and I know the country would be the beneficiary were he to be selected by Hillary Clinton as her running mate.

Larry Roberts is a 30-year resident of Arlington and an attorney in private practice. He is former Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, chaired two successful statewide campaigns, and served as Counselor to the Governor in Richmond.

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