Wednesday, April 20, 2005

SLANT Interview for April: Tim Kaine


Tim Kaine (by F. T. Rea, 2005)

Gubernatorial hopeful Tim Kaine, 47, grew up in Kansas City. Upon graduating from the University of Missouri, Kaine earned his law degree at Harvard. Note: He took a year off from law school (1980) to work as a Christian missionary in Honduras, where he taught welding and woodworking to underprivileged children. Kaine has lived in Richmond since 1984. Working as an attorney, for his day-job, Kaine served on City Council for seven years; from 1998 - 2001 he was Richmond’s mayor. For six years Kaine taught a course in legal ethics at the University of Richmond’s law school. In 2001, Kaine, a Democrat, was elected Lt. Governor of Virginia. Kaine’s wife, Anne Holton -- the daughter of former Virginia governor Linwood Holton, a Republican -- is a juvenile court judge. Their three children, Nat, Woody, and Annella, attend Richmond’s public schools.

It has been said many times that Virginia’s quirky politics seem rather insulated from national trends. Here’s an example: Through seven election cycles, going back almost 30 years, whichever major party has won the presidency, the following year the other major party has captured the top office in Virginia. All the way back to Democrat Jimmy Carter, elected in 1976, followed by Republican John Dalton in 1977, to George Bush (R) in 2000, followed by Mark Warner (D) in 2001, Virginia’s voters have consistently marched out of step with the nation’s. If this opposites trend continues Tim Kaine will prevail in November.

SLANT: Given the results of the last seven gubernatorial elections, why have Virginia’s voters been so at odds with the national trends?

Kaine: Virginia voters are not at odds with national trends: They set national trends. Our voters are well-informed people who share strong values and a solid focus on that which will improve their schools, neighborhoods and livelihoods. They demand strong leadership from their elected officials, and they want to know what positive vision candidates offer for the future. Virginia currently has the second fastest job growth rate in the nation and Governing Magazine says Virginia is the best managed state in the country. We have achieved that success by bringing people together to make record investments in our public schools while protecting our business-friendly reputation by salvaging the state’s sterling credit rating. That’s the type of performance Virginia voters expect and deserve.

S: With all the controversy over redistricting we've seen in Virginia, and elsewhere, how would you like to see Virginia's political districts drawn in the future?

K: There are no angels in the redistricting process. Both major political parties in Virginia, and other states, have abused the process to benefit incumbents and dampen competition. By creating the districts as they do, lawmakers give themselves a nearly iron-clad opportunity to retain their seats for as long as they like without the hassle of having to spend time and money on re-election campaigns. But the cost to voters is simply too high. I have long advocated that Virginia follow the lead of other states like Utah who use a non-partisan or bipartisan panel of non-elected experts to draw political maps with an eye toward maximizing competition. Our Commonwealth would benefit greatly from the more vigorous campaigning and greater choices on Election Day that such a system would generate.

S: How will your religious/personal beliefs about the death penalty, abortion and other life-and-death issues come into play -- or not -- if you are elected as Virginia’s next governor?

K: When it comes to the death penalty, I will enforce the law the same way Governors of Virginia have for years. I have a personal, faith-based objection to both abortion and the death penalty. However, I understand what it means to put my hand on a Bible and take an oath of office. I take that oath very seriously, and will uphold the law.

S: Where do you stand on the current proposal, as it has been presented, to build a new baseball park in Shockoe Bottom?

K: There are so many factors that play into the stadium debate including: How much taxpayer money should be used? Where exactly should a new stadium be built? How will it impact the local neighborhood with regards to traffic congestion and impact on historic structures and places? With regard for public financing, I don’t believe taxpayers should be asked to pay any more for a new facility than they would pay for a reasonable renovation for the existing Diamond. And, I believe more questions must be asked and answered before decisions are made on the current proposal.

S: At this point of the 2005 campaign what do you think voters should see as the most important differences separating you from your presumed opponent, Jerry Kilgore?

K: I am a strong leader who is not afraid to make a tough decision. And when you compare Mr. Kilgore and me, you will see that I am the only candidate with experience in small business, and the only candidate with on the job experience dealing with the challenges faced by local government and the General Assembly. I grew up working in my Dad’s small iron welding shop, and I’ve managed a law firm. I am the only candidate who has ever cut taxes. I am the only candidate who has ever put together an economic development deal. I am the only candidate who has a tangible record of fighting crime successfully. And I am the only candidate with a record of bringing people together across lines of race, region and partisan affiliation to get things done.

S: Where is your favorite vista in Richmond, or your favorite place to walk to have a private talk, or to think something over?

K: That’s an easy question. I am happiest when I am on the James River with my family. We spend a lot of time outdoors and particularly enjoy kayaking and rafting. I think the rare opportunity to shoot through Class 5 rapids while in the shadows of downtown’s skyscrapers makes Richmond a unique and special place.

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