Former Virginia governor Tim Kaine said Wednesday that he spoke to President Obama twice about running for U.S. Senate next year but was “pleasantly surprised” that the president did not pressure him to run for the seat being vacated by Democrat Jim Webb.
“I was pleasantly relieved not to have my arm twisted and I thought I was going to get arm-twisted,’’ Kaine said. “There were a lot of people who did twist my arm. His attitude was this is what you say to a friend. Think about what’s the best way to serve others and if you do that everything will be fine.”
Kaine made his first public comments to dozens of reporters outside the state Capitol in Richmond Wednesday after resigning as chairman of the Democratic National Committee on Tuesday and announcing he would run to succeed Webb who is retiring after one term.
“When he announced that he wouldn’t run, I was loving the job that I was doing, I didn’t have a race for Senate on my to do list and obviously it was surprise,’’ Kaine said.
Kaine said he decided in early March that he would run after speaking to Obama twice — once in person and once on the phone --- several current and former Democratic and Republican senators, including Webb and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and his own family.
Kaine said Obama just spoke to him as a friend and told him to do what he wanted to do.
“That just meant Anne and I could look at the needs of Virginians and the needs of the state and what we could be doing for the next chunk of our lives,’’ Kaine said.
Kaine said he won’t shy away from Obama during the campaign and expects the president will campaign in Virginia because it will again be in play in the presidential race. Obama, who won Virginia in 2008, is likely to make the state a central front in his reelection effort in 2012, and each man hopes that the other’s presence on the ticket will help him win.
“The president and I are friends and I support him and support the job that’s he’s doing,’’ Kaine said. “When I was DNC chair, people never asked me to advocate things I didn’t believe.”
Kaine told reporters he decided to jump into the race for three reasons — he thinks he can help create jobs, develop fiscal responsibility and bring back civility.
“We have a tradition of balancing civility in Virginia that Washington needs,’’ he said. “In some ways I don’t know that I appreciated until I started spending more time in Washington.”
Kaine is the only Democrat to officially announce a Senate campaign, with most others in the state saying they would defer to him. The exception is Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, who has said he would decide on a Senate bid by July.
“Public service is ultimately my goal and there a lot of ways to do it and this was an opportunity to do it,’’ Kaine said. “Ultimately I became convinced this was a wonderful opportunity to serve others and serve the commonwealth and the country.”
Former senator and governor George Allen; Jamie Radtke, the former chairwoman of the Federation of Virginia Tea Party Patriots; Hampton Roads lawyer David McCormick and Chesapeake Bishop E.W. Jackson are running on the Republican ticket. Other potential GOP candidates include Del. Robert G. Marshall (Prince William), Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey A. Stewart, businessman Bert Mizusawa and wealthy television production company owner Timothy E. Donner.