The announcement that U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, the 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee and a longtime presence in Virginia politics, would run for reelection next year allayed concerns among his party about retaining a seat in a state now led by a Republican governor.
Kaine, 64, admitted that the length of the potential commitment—a two-year campaign and a six-year term—had caused him some difficulty deciding. In the end, he claimed he still had more to do.
“I’m a servant. I love Virginia. I’m proud of what I’ve done. I’ve got a lot more I want to do,” Kaine said after meeting with about a dozen young advocates, state employees, and political staffers at a roundtable in Richmond, his longtime home.
Speaking with his wife Anne Holton by his side, Kaine claimed that while Senate Democratic colleagues had urged him to run for a third term, President Joe Biden had not personally pressured him to do so.
In a battleground state that both parties cherish, Kaine’s retirement would have been a blow to Democrats both politically and practically. Kaine, a former governor and lieutenant governor of Virginia, will enter the campaign as the early favorite in a seat that Democrats must hold because of a complex Senate map in 2024.
As part of a slate of Republican statewide candidates elected that year, Republican Glenn Youngkin defeated Democratic former Governor Terry McAuliffe in the 2021 governor’s contest despite Virginia becoming more liberal over the previous ten years.
Before 2024, Kaine stated that he was geared up for a challenging campaign and viewed Virginia as a battleground state, “maybe a little bit on the blue side.”
“Look, the success of Gov. Younkin and the statewide ticket in ’21 shows you that, hey, Virginians will vote for Republicans in statewide elections,” he said. “Nobody can take that for granted.”
Democrats from Virginia and many of Kaine’s Democratic Senate colleagues applauded his declaration. Kaine “has battled tirelessly for his home state and working families, and I’m convinced his finest years are yet to be,” according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Virginians have proven they are prepared to “vote Republican with the proper candidate and the appropriate political atmosphere,” according to Maggie Abboud, a spokesperson for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
“We’re going to keep a close eye on Virginia and focus on recruiting a strong candidate who can raise the resources necessary to compete,” Abboud said.
At least two Republicans from Virginia have declared their intent to run or expressed interest in doing so.
Eddie Garcia, a veteran of the military from Northern Virginia, recently declared his candidacy. Additionally, Hung Cao’s adviser Tim Saler stated in an email on Friday that Cao was humbled by the “many Virginians who have encouraged him to consider a run.”
In a district in northern Virginia that leans blue, Cao—a retired Navy captain and Vietnamese immigrant—ran a valiant but losing campaign against Rep. Jennifer Wexton.
After telling the Richmond Times-Dispatch earlier this month that he hadn’t decided to run for office again, rumors started circulating about Kaine’s future. By last week, according to Kaine, he had a clear idea of his course of action. However, he kept it a secret, notifying only three staff members two days ago and the rest at 9 p.m. on Thursday.
Kaine is best known in the country for being Hillary Clinton‘s running mate in the 2016 presidential election, which they lost to Donald Trump and Mike Pence. Kaine has served in public government for almost 30 years.
He began his political career in the 1990s on the Richmond City Council. He served for four terms, two of which were as mayor.
He later won elections for deputy governor and governor, holding those positions from 2006 until 2010. Virginia is the only state that has a one-term limit for governors.
After a contentious and expensive campaign, Kaine defeated Republican George Allen to win the Senate seat for the first time in 2012. In 2018, Kaine faced off against the far-right GOP contender Corey Stewart in a far less heated race; Kaine prevailed by 16 percentage points.
As a severe policymaker and enthusiastic legislative partner, Kaine is seen as a passionate but practical senator.
After his prominent role on the Democratic presidential ticket in 2016, he returned to work in the Senate. During the coronavirus outbreak, when an aura of informality swept over the Capitol, he frequently appeared in black jeans.
His experience with the coronavirus resulted in what he has called “mild long COVID symptoms,” as he campaigns for funds for the disease’s research and treatment.
Kaine has campaigned against automatic federal budget cuts as a senator. He has also worked to lower veteran unemployment and gain national recognition for Virginia’s Native American tribes. He recently pushed for the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Inflation Reduction Act to pass.
If voters decide to send him back to Washington the following year, he said he hopes to see advancements in the areas of immigration, mental health care, education and workforce concerns, and the fight against opioid addiction and overdoses.