Kaine is the liberal who meets Clinton’s needs
Profile: Virginia senator covers key gaps in Democratic presidential candidate’s ticket
US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and running mate US senator Tim Kaine arrive for a campaign rally at Florida International University in Miami on Saturday. Photograph: Gaston De Cardenas/AFP/Getty Images
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her running mate US Senator Tim Kaine make their first public together appearance at Florida International University. Photograph: Gustavo Caballero/Getty
“Fe, familia y trabajo” was how Tim Kaine defined his life and public service around faith, family and work at his first campaign event as Hillary Clinton’s running mate.
The Virginia senator (58) delivered an impressive performance in front of more than 5,000 at Florida International University on Saturday, appearing natural and affable in contrast to Clinton’s often contrived and stilted style on the campaign trail. His fluency in Spanish, which he slipped in and out of during his largely biographical speech, will help too with crucial Hispanic voters.
Kaine’s back-story covers some shortcomings on the Clinton ticket and, coming from a battleground state – since 2000, the candidate who has won Virginia has won the White House – he gives the former US secretary of state a push in the race to the required 270 electoral college votes.
Introducing Kaine as her VP pick in another swing state, Florida, while highlighting his fluency in Spanish and support for immigration reform, was calculated by the Clinton camp to target Latinos and set out the differences with Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant proposals. Picking the popular Kaine also helps Clinton’s disadvantage against Trump among white men.
“Bienvenidos a todos en nuestro pais. Porque somos Americanos todos,” Kaine said, which translates as “Welcome to everyone in our country because we are all Americans.”
Kaine learned Spanish from his co-workers in his father’s iron-working shop in his native Kansas City. Jesuit-educated, he studied at the University of Missouri and Harvard Law School where he took time off to work for a year with Jesuit missionaries in Honduras.
He went on to work as a civil rights lawyer for 17 years in Richmond, Virginia, representing people denied housing because of their race or disability.
He has never lost an election. He served four terms on Richmond’s city council, including two as mayor, and was later elected Virginia’s lieutenant governor in 2001 and the 70th governor of Virginia in 2006.
A devout Catholic but a pragmatic liberal, Kaine is personally against abortion and the death penalty, but has voted pro-choice in the US senate and oversaw 11 state executions as governor of Virginia.
“I took an oath of office to uphold,” he said. He is a recent convert to gay adoption and same-sex marriage, and also a big fan of Pope Francis.
The politician is very proud of his Irish roots. All four of his grandparents were born to Irish immigrants and he has traced his family roots back to Longford and Kilkenny.
Speaking at the American Ireland Fund’s St Patrick’s Day dinner in Washington this year, Kaine called himself “as stone Irish as you get”.
He recalled visiting Ireland with his wife Anne and their three daughters in 2006, and about how unhappy his children were to be dragged away from Dublin’s tourist hotspots to find the rural birthplace of his great-grandfather, PJ Farrell in Killashee, Co Longford.
“As we drove to Longford, which isn’t exactly the tourist zone, they continued to complain,” he said. “But when we landed in Longford town my 11-year-old daughter said to me, ‘Dad, why does everyone look like us?’ And they started to get it.”