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Democratic vice presidential pick Tim Kaine known for controversial abortion, death penalty decisions

Kaine is not the VP choice that progressives were hoping for, in part due of his complicated stance on abortion and relationship with Wall Street.

by Tess Owen
Jul 24 2016, 7:40pm

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Democratic U.S. vice presidential candidate Senator Tim Kaine. (Scott Audette/Reuters)

"I am boring" Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton's newly appointed running mate, confessed on NBC's Meet the Press recently.

In such a volatile election season full of larger-than-large personalities, out-of-control egos and FBI investigations, it was presumably Kaine's boringness that made him an attractive choice to Clinton. She opted for Kaine — a safe, moderate Democrat from swing-state Virginia, over more progressive alternatives such as Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren or Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown.

Kaine has served at almost every level of government, from local city councilman, to mayor, to Virginia state governor. He also formerly chaired the Democratic National Committee, and has been described as a "nonprofiteer and a cheerful policy wonk."

So who is Tim Kaine?


  • Kaine, the eldest of three boys, grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City, Kansas. His mother was a home economics teacher and his father, a welder, owned a small iron-working shop. His parents have been portrayed as firm, hard-working and religious, who never missed Sunday mass.
  • His teenage years studying at an all-boys Jesuit school were formative in terms of his own religious identity, which later underpinned and sometimes conflicted with his political career.
  • Kaine started out studying journalism at the University of Missouri, but after finding his classmates "very cynical," he switched to economics, graduated summa cum laude and got into Harvard Law School.
  • Kaine took time out of Harvard to travel to Honduras, where he helped Jesuit missionaries run a Catholic school in El Progreso.
  • After nine months, Kaine became fluent in Spanish (and would later become the first US senator in history to deliver a speech on the Senate floor in a non-English language). He returned to Harvard and graduated in 1983.
  • He met his wife, Anne Holton — an American lawyer and judge who has served as the Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia since 2014 — during their time as Harvard students. Holton is also the daughter of former Virginia Governor Linwood Holton.

Related: Clinton taps Tim Kaine for vice president, but fails to impress Sanders supporters

Political career

  • Kaine moved to Richmond, Virginia, where his wife was from, and clerked for Judge R. Lanier Anderson, a US 11th Circuit Court judge. He then worked at law firms for the next 17 years, where he focused on civil rights cases.
  • He first entered politics in 1994 by winning a seat on the Richmond city council. In 2005 he was elected governor of Virginia.
  • In 2007, as Virginia governor, Kaine became the first statewide official (outside of Illinois) to endorse then-Senator Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton.
  • Kaine was vetted as Obama's potential running mate in 2008.
  • He served as the DNC chairman for the first two years of Obama's presidency.
  • In 2012, Kaine successfully ran for former US Democratic Senator Jim Webb's seat, which was vacant after Webb decided not to run again. Kaine won the seat by beating former Virginia Governor and US Senator George Allen.

Related: Wikileaks email dump suggests DNC favored Clinton over Sanders

On the issues

  • Kaine has maintained that he is personally opposed to abortion, citing his Catholic religious beliefs. That said, he campaigned against overturning Roe v Wade during his run for the Senate in 2012. And his voting record as a senator scores 100 percent with both Planned Parenthood and pro-choice group NARAL. His record as a Virginia governor on abortion is quite different; he campaigned to restrict abortions by pushing for parental notification and consent, supported a ban on "partial-birth abortion" (where the fetus is removed after dying at a late stage of pregnancy) and signed a bill allowing "Choose Life" license plates.
  • The tension between his religious beliefs and his political role is also apparent with his track record on the death penalty. The New York Times found that Kaine presided over 11 executions as governor of Virginia – and granted clemency only once. Personally, Kaine opposes the death penalty for the same reason he personally opposes abortion, because his "faith teaches life is sacred."
  • Kaine has challenged the Obama administration to get authorization from congress in its fight against the Islamic State, and has questioned the legality of US interventionism. His views counter Clinton, who is perceived as hawkish for her support of the Iraq war in 2003 and push for military intervention in Libya during her time as secretary of state.
  • He is a staunch backer of gun control. He was serving as Virginia's governor in 2007 when a shooter opened fire at Virginia Tech, killing 32 people. During the Democrats' occupation of the senate floor last month in the wake of the deadly shooting in Orlando, Kaine spoke about the Virginia Tech shooting. He defends the Second Amendment, and is reportedly a gun owner himself. However, he has maintained the need for "common sense legislation," such as limiting assault-style weapons and expanding background checks.
  • Kaine supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a free-trade agreement between the US and 11 other countries. Clinton opposes the deal, saying that it will move jobs overseas.
  • Kaine has signed two letters supporting bank deregulation. This in particular has rankled progressives. The "securities and investment" sector are his third highest political donor pool, causing Democracy for America's executive director to go as far to say that Kaine's support for bank deregulation should disqualify him from VP appointment.

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