When the news broke Friday that Hillary Clinton had tapped Sen. Tim Kaine to be her running mate, a group of his neighbors informally gathered in front of the senator’s home on Confederate Avenue in Richmond, Va., to mark the occasion.
Kaine lives in “a very simple, plain house that hasn’t changed in all the time I’ve known him,” said Fred Orelove, who lives two blocks away.
“He’s the real deal,” said Orelove, who goes back 20 years with Kaine. “What you see is what you get. He’s been on the City Council, then mayor, then lieutenant governor, then governor and now senator. And he is fundamentally the same person.”
Kaine is also a former Democratic National Committee chair — installed by President Barack Obama — which means he is a familiar figure to the high-end donor community.
While widely known within insider Democratic circles, Kaine’s national profile is lower, partly because he hasn’t sought the limelight, remaining more of a workhorse who remains grounded in his community.
Kaine is part of a circle of four or five families who, when their kids were young, would camp over Memorial Day weekend at Douthat State Park in the mountains of Virginia.
“And to entertain the children, Tim would make up a story which centered on a character that he devised named Mountain Jack,” Orelove said. “And he made these stories up on the spot. They were always compelling, funny and just scary enough.”
Kaine goes to informal neighborhood dinners, spends New Year’s Eve with the people on his block and, if time allows, meets the guys for breakfast on Tuesday at a diner in Richmond.
He “really is just a regular guy,” Orelove said. “He’s very unassuming. One other thing: He’s also the smartest guy in the room.”
The Clinton-Kaine ticket’s public debut took place in Miami on Saturday, ahead of the Democratic National Convention, which kicks off Monday in Philadelphia.
Timothy Michael “Tim” Kaine, was born Feb. 26, 1958, in Saint Paul, Minn., and raised in Kansas City. He attended the University of Missouri at Columbia and Harvard Law School, taking off a year to teach at a school in Honduras serving impoverished students.
He met his future wife, Anne Holton, while at Harvard and ended up in her home state of Virginia, where his father-in-law, A. Linwood Holton, was a former Republican governor. Holton is now the Virginia education scretary, tapped by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a longtime close friend of Hillary and Bill Clinton.
Kaine, elected to the Senate in 2012, was always on the top of any list of Clinton potential running mates.
He brings national security credentials as a member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees. He’s fluent in Spanish and a popular figure in a key swing state. Also, since Virginia has a Democratic governor, there’s no doubt that a Democrat will be picked to fill his seat if Clinton wins.
Within Obama circles, Kaine holds an important place. He was the second governor — Illinois’s then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich was the first — to endorse Obama over his 2008 primary challenger, Hillary Clinton. That was an enormous, validating endorsement for Obama.
Kaine, who became Virginia governor in 2006, helped Obama win the Virginia 2008 primary and then beat Republican John McCain in the general election.
Obama got along so well with Kaine that he vetted him for his running mate before choosing then-Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del.
Kaine is a Catholic who has said he has personal reservations about abortion. Still, shortly after Clinton announced his selection on Friday night, NARAL Pro-Choice America said of him: “He’s maintained a 100 percent pro-choice voting record in the U.S. Senate.”
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America were lukewarm about Kaine’s selection. The SEIU and AFL-CIO did not raise objections.
Clinton’s primary battle with Sanders has pushed her to the left. She’s been attacked by Republican nominee Donald Trump — and by Democratic progressives – for backing trade deals including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Kaine opposes.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. — a progressive who backed Clinton from the start — said the Democratic platform language worked out with labor on the TPP says it should not pass in its current form. That should assuage concerns about Kaine, she said.
Kaine “can be a great help to the ticket,” said Schakowsky. “It’s going to be unified support for Tim Kaine.”