Tim Kaine comes home, offers final push for Clinton campaign in RVA on eve of Election day
On the eve of the biggest day of his political career, Sen. Tim Kaine returned to where it all started, holding one last rally in Richmond before casting his vote Tuesday.
Around 1,000 supporters packed the Million Air hangar at Richmond International Airport as Kaine and his wife, former Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton, spoke for about 40 minutes about his and Hillary Clinton’s campaign vision.
His voice raspy from months of campaigning, Kaine was emotional about returning home and swaggering in his confidence going into election day.
“Twenty-two years ago I got mad at the City Council and just decided, ‘Well shoot, I think I’ll do something very different for me, which is to run for office,’” he said. “And that was 22 years ago. That was eight races ago and folks, I’m 8-0 in races and I’m gonna be 9-0 tomorrow. I don’t lose. You can beat me at Scrabble, you can beat me at Trivial Pursuit. There are a lot of things you can beat me at. Don’t run an election against me. Just don’t.”
That kind of fiery defiance characterized much of his speech as he touted Hillary Clinton’s record and went after Donald Trump for his long list of offensive remarks. He spoke about when Clinton came up short in passing healthcare reform during her husband’s presidency but kept pushing for the passage of the SCHIP program that insured children.
“The next President of the United States will have a day, will have many days, when it won’t go his or her way. When something that you care about you can’t get and you fall short and you’re disappointed,” he said. “And you want to know about that person who’s sitting in the Oval Office that when that day comes, they’re gonna get up the next day and they’re not gonna give up, they’re not gonna back down and they’re not gonna go away. That’s the kind of president Hillary Clinton will be.”
Kaine briefly touched on his longtime support for the LGBTQ community. A devout Catholic, Kaine’s stance on same-sex marriage has evolved over the course of his career. But in 2006, shortly after being elected Governor, he issued an executive order protecting LGBTQ state employees from discrimination.
In 2011, he campaigned against a law allowing state-funded adoption agencies to deny same-sex couples who wanted to adopt. In the Senate, he sent a letter to President Obama lobbying for an executive order that required federal contractors to protect LGBTQ employees. And while on the campaign trail in September, Kaine made an unplanned stop at the Pulse memorial in Orlando.
“We believe in equality. We believe in the Jeffersonian vision from voting rights to workers’ rights to human rights to women’s rights to LGBT equality to criminal justice reform …” he said. “We’ve always been able to solve any challenge we have as long as we let everybody around the table to participate in solving it. And we only run into trouble when we’re pushing people away from the table. ‘You’re the wrong religion, you’re the wrong nationality, you’re the wrong sexual orientation, you’re skin color is different.’ If we push people away from the table suddenly we find that we’re weaker, not stronger.”
In contrast, Trump’s running mate Mike Pence set off a firestorm when he signed Indiana’s “religious freedom” bill, which allowed private businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ citizens. He backtracked later but has a long record of opposing LGBTQ equality initiatives.
Monday’s rally was added to Kaine’s schedule late last week as Trump’s campaign made a final push with ad buys and appearances in Virginia, despite polls consistently showing the Clinton campaign with a healthy — if somewhat shrinking — lead.
Of course, Kaine has deep roots and support in Richmond. His start in politics came when he won the city’s 2nd district council seat by just 97 votes in 1994. In 1998 he was elected Mayor by his fellow council members before heading to the state capitol as Lieutenant Governor in 2002, Governor in 2006 and finally U.S. Senator in 2013. This summer he was tapped for Vice President by Clinton and, through it all, he maintained his Ginter Park residence.
Virginia’s 13 electoral votes were previously seen as nearly locked up by Clinton for much of the campaign, a remarkable development for a state that hadn’t gone blue since 1964 before then-Senator Obama won it in 2008.
“A lot of people looked at Virginia and said, ‘No way Virginia is gonna go Democratic and support President Obama’ because we’ve got some scar tissue here, folks. And most states do, most cities do. Capital of the Confederacy. Africans came enslaved here to Jamestown in 1619. A lot of the laws establishing the second-class citizenship of African Americans were passed right in that Capitol Building down in Capitol Square,” Kaine said. “… And so a whole lot of people in 2008 didn’t believe in you. They didn’t believe in us. They didn’t believe we could turn from facing backwards and face forward.”
Clinton’s team went off the air in Virginia in September. But as the race has tightened over the last few weeks nationally, both sides have been making late runs in the Commonwealth. Trump held a rally in Leesburg Sunday following Mike Pence’s appearance Saturday in Fairfax and both campaigns have made new ad buys in the state.
Kaine and the man he wants to succeed, Vice President Joe Biden, held a joint rally at George Mason University on Monday as well. The latest FiveThirtyEight polling average shows Clinton with a five-point lead in Virginia.
Monday night was part-Homecoming and part-Get Out The Vote (GOTV) for Kaine and Holton. Prominent state democrats lined the bill, with 4th district congressional candidate Donald McEachin kicking things off and Governor Terry McAuliffe puffing his chest on his gubernatorial record and the executive action he took to restore voting rights for felons.
“My proudest moment was when I stood out on that Capitol on April 22nd restored the rights of 206,000 ex-felons,” McAuliffe said. “And then Republicans sued me and said I didn’t have the right to do it. And the Court said, ‘Well … you’re gonna have to do it individually.’ So you know what I said? I’ll do it individually. I’ll sign all 206,000.”
For the homecoming part, Holton — the only true Virginia native — talked about how much the two had missed Richmond over the course of the campaign.
“We love you all. From the depths of our heart we love you,” she said. “…We have missed you. We have really really missed you and it’s so good to be home. But I’ll tell you this, we want to miss you a little bit more.”
The polls close at 7 pm in Virginia.
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