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from a public HS teacher (Gov't, Religion, Soc. Issues), who is eclectic (Dem-leaning) politically and Quaker (& open) on everything else. Hope you enjoy what you find here.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Blogging - TIM KAINE 

With no Federal elections this year and with New Jersey considered to be a probably Democratic victory., the Governor’s race in Virginia is probably the most closely watched race this year. Yesterday, Thursday June 16, I attended on fundraiser on behalf of Tim Kaine, current Lt. Governor and Democratic Gubernatorial candidate in the Old Dominion. This was my first personal encounter with Kaine, with whom I got to speak several times, and he knows that I will be posting this blog entry.

The setting were the house and garden of a lawyer in Arlington, VA, who when they were both young lawyers fresh out of law school had offices a few doors apart in the same small Richmond law firm. Although they have stayed in touch over the years, it has been primarily by phone, and this was their first direct encounter in about 15 years.

I have lived in Arlington since 1983. At the time I moved here my college classmate John Milliken was on the County Board, and quickly got me involved in local Democratic politics. I saw lots of familiar faces, including elected officials such Sheriff Beth Arthur, State Senator Mary Margaret Whipple, Delegate Al Eisenberg, Commissioner of the Revenue Ingrid Morroy, and School Board Members Mary Hynes and Barbara Favola. Many former elected officials, such as former delegates Judy Connolly and Karen Darner and County Board Member Ellen Bozman, were also present, as were most of the important county activists, for a total attendance of over 100. Ticket prices ranged from $100 (poor teachers like me) to $1,000 (there were at least 3 such patrons), with discounts to $75 for members of the Roosevelt Society, ongoing contributors to the County Dems, but most of those members gave more.

I had several chances to talk with Tim Kaine, one before he addressed the crowd and took questions, and two briefly afterwards. Before his formal remarks, I mentioned that I was a teacher and concerned about NCLB and how the state related with the US DOE. He immediately noted the need for states that were doing a good job to have greater flexibility, which has been an ongoing issue here in Virginia. He remarked that while he was not greatly enamored of the legislation, the one good thing was the requirement to disaggregate the scores (I point on which I would agree). I mention this exchange not so much because education is my issue, but because it is illustrative of how knowlegeable and on point he was about issues that people raised.

I also overheard interchanges he had with two people on their issues, and got to talk with them immediately thereafter. The first was Commissioner Ingrid Morroy. She wanted to see greater coordination between state agencies and the local governments that deliver services. In this case she was specifically concerned with the Virginia Department of Transportation, because her Commissioner of Revenue office does a number of services which can be more efficiently done to serve the community that are in coordination with the licensing authority of the state. Kaine new the details of her issue, the personalities of the people she was dealing with, and made a commitment to follow up.

The second issue was serving the people across the Commonwealth who are identified as disabled. The person who spoke with him, Susan Prokop, has been actively involved in Arlington politics since I moved here, and her husband, Jim Turpin, is the current chair of the Arlington Democrats. Kaine actually is in charge of the effort to serve disabled in the state, so naturally he was knowledgeable on this issue.

Our hostess, Joanne Schehl, introduced Tim to the crowd by saying that it was “hard to believe he became a politician because he is such a nice guy.” He met his wife (daughter of former Republican Governor Linwood Holton) when the two of them worked on a death penalty project at Harvard. When they married they moved into an integrated neighborhood. She also said that Tim’s political success made her less cynical about the political process.

Kaine then spoke to the crowd. He noted that his wife’s father was the first Republican governor in Virginia not installed by the Union Army. This remark was an exemplar of the quick, dry, and gentle humor that was characteristic of his remarks.

Since we are just two days past the primaries, he noted the contrast between the two tickets was very strong. He felt this was going to be good for the Democrats, because it would allow them to offer the voters of the Commonwealth a clear choice. He introduced Larry Roberts, an Arlington resident, who is chair of his campaign and who has taken a leave of absence from his law firm to work on the campaign full time.

Kaine described the event as both an Arlington event and a Woman for Kaine event. he then talked about three women who have had a major influence on him. The first was his mother Kathy, who at age 70 is a cancer survivor. He talked a bit about her and growing up in Kansas City. The second is his mother-in-law, Jinks Holton. When Linwood Holton integrated Virginia’s schools (after previous governors had resisted integration -- here I note that Mills Godwin ordered schools shut rather than let them be integrated), Jinks and Linwood put their kids -- including Kaine’s wife Anne - into integrate schools, where sometimes they were the only white children in their classes. Anne is now a Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court judge and she cannot attend political events because of judicial ethics [note -- she did not even attend his official announcement of candidacy]. He repeated her remark that “it’s nice to have an excuse” not to attend, and then joked that when Lisa Warner (wife of our current Governor) heard that she asked when she could become a judge.

Kaine talked about working as a missionary in Honduras for a year when he was 23. He later mentioned that he began his advertising in rural Virginia, that he became the first Democrat to run ads on Christian radio stations.

He talked about how Virginia is doing well since Warner’s election in 2001. The state has the 2nd highest job growth and is considered the best run state -- he repeated this point several times, and I expect it to be a focus of his campaign. But he also noted that the campaign has to address the needs of those people for whom things are not going right.

He remarked that Mark Warner had proven that a Democrat can win, and added
Now I’ve got to prove that a Democrat can win who can’t write himself a check for $8 million.


He talked about the race being closely watched. He acknowledged that he started well back in the polls and in fundraising, but noted that things have closed up, and that in fundraising might even be moving ahead. he later noted that he is outraising Kilgore within the state, but that Rove has already been in state, and that Bush will be coming in to help Kilgore raise funds.

He talked about how this administration has succeeded in investing in education and enrolling kids in the state’s health insurance program. He then painted a clear contrast:
Each of the guys on the other side fought against everything we did. Now 61% of Republicans support what we did for fiscal responsibility, but the 3 Republican candidates still oppose it.


He said that he really didn’t like to be a fundraiser but
I’ve turned myself into a pretty good one.
In April and May he did 37 fundraisers in 60 days.

He focused on four key issues:

- find a smart way to help local officials with targeting tax relief for homes

-invest in high quality education

- keep the economy sharp, with a focus on Southside and the Southwest since these areas have not shared as much in the recent growth

- tackle transportation and land use issue

He argued that public officials ned to be about finding common ground in order to solve the problems facing the people of the commonwealth.


Kaine then took and answered questions. When asked about concentrating within the Beltway, he noted that 30% of the electorate is in Northern Virginia. His headquarters for GOTV is in Tyson’s Corner, and he will be doing local events, including walking some neighborhoods on Saturday morning. (I note that in my conversation with him when he first arrived, he had expressed that his secret wish had been realized when Connaughton, from Prince William County, had not won the Republican Lt. Gov slot. He was realistic -- the Dems have an advantage in having Byrne from N Va on the ticket, but the Republicans have a candidate from Hampton Roads and the Dems will have to work hard to offset that).

When asked about affordable housing, he noted that his law practice had been largely about housing issues for 18 years. he talked about how there ae things that can be done through state agencies and under state law to target aid on housing. He described that when in local government in Richmond (city council and Mayor) they took advantage of a provision that allows exemption of rehabilitated housing and additions to encourage people to go in and fix up degraded and abandoned housing -- they were able to exempt such housing from taxes for up to 15 years. He acknowledged that degraded housing was not an issue in Arlington, but suggested that there might be ways to target such tax relief to housing being added on to with the intent of pricing it as affordable housing.

He was asked about his response to Kilgore’s negative ads. He said “I’m just a sunny and positive guy.” But he was also forceful. I hope I’ve got this word for word except where noted, but if not, it is close, so here goes the block quote again:
When the other side attacks, i will always spin it to a positive, but I’ve always responded. I’m Irish (here I can’t read the next sentence in my notes). I’ve got teenagers, you’re not going to rattle me. The Republicans are not used to Democrats who stand up to their attacks.


He noted that the Republicans were running the same attacks they ran against Warner and Beyer. He then talked about why he his first ads were about his missionary work. He then made a clear statement that needs to be noted:
We cannot let the Republican party be the faith and values party.


I asked a question about Schiavo (and I talked with him afterwards on this point). He noted that Virginia had some experience with this (the Hugh Finn case, where Gov. Gilmore tired to intervene in a court decision, but got slapped down by the Courts), He feels strongly about this that we need to follow the law and the courts. His wife in her role as a judge deals with these kinds of issues, and there needs to be a way for families to deal with these issues confidentially, which is what in theory the law provides.

The last question was what people could do to help, and he did an excursus on the old line of the preacher about giving your time, your talent and your treasure.

He noted he had been knocking on doors since March, that he would be out again on Saturday, and encouraged people to get involved. he then said that since he didn’t have another event to go to, he would hang around and talk for a while.

Afterwards I made a suggestion to him. I should note that when I approached him he immediately thanked me for my question on Terri Schiavo. I said that I had an idea for how it could be addressed. One problem is that the laws are not uniform on living wills and medical directive from state to state, and that there are problems when it is na interstate situation, which the Hugh Finn case had been (Finn was in a car accident in Kentucky, but was transferred to a care facility in Manassas Virginia), which he said he had not realized. I suggested that the state set up a formal registry for living wills and medical directives, and actively encourage citizens of all ages to file the papers with the state. Then not only would the state have a formal record, but in the even the person were out of state, the wishes might be able to be honored under the full faith and credit provision of the US Constitution, since it would be the state’s registry of the person’s intent. He immediately reacted, and noted that it would not be politicizing the issue, but rather finding a creative way of the state providing a service for the people, and asked me to write it up and give it to his policy people.

---

My reactions to the event were overwhelmingly positive. My sense is that if Kaine does not get overwhelmed by money he will win. For one thing, he is part of an administration that hs financially put the state’s house in order, and that plays well in Virginia. For another, his opponent will eventually have to appear on stage with him and debate him, and Kilgore comes across as very weak. Kaine is imaginative, as his advertising on Christian radio talking about his missionary work demonstrates. it is similar to Mark Warner's having sponsored a Nascar race vehicle.

I hope this gives readers a sense of the man, and of why people involved in this campaign are excited. If you want to get involved including but not limited to giving money, or if you just want to find out more, go to his web page
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