George Allen (R) and Timothy M. Kaine (D) are locked in a high-profile fight to be the next U.S. senator from Virginia. But they also appear to be competing for a lesser-known position — Ron Wyden’s best friend.
Though most voters in Virginia probably have little idea who he is, the Democratic senator from Oregon has now been invoked by both sides in the Kaine-Allen race.
As Democrats accuse him of hyper-partisanship and an unwillingness to work across the aisle, Allen has repeatedly mentioned his work with Wyden in the Senate on high-tech issues. “Ron Wyden and I ended up being really good friends and working together on keeping taxes off Internet access,” Allen said at a Northern Virginia forum on technology issues in June.
Allen cited the same work in an appearance at AOL headquarters in May, describing how he’d teamed up with “a liberal Democrat from Oregon.”
So on Thursday afternoon, when Kaine went to visit the Arlington headquarters of GridPoint, a company that monitors and manages energy usage for clients, he just happened to bring along a special guest — Wyden.
As a senior member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee — he is set to become the panel’s top Democrat in the next Congress — Wyden has an obvious interest in GridPoint’s work, and he chatted with executives there about relevant legislation. But Wyden was also there to boost Kaine.
“I never show up somewhere to run somebody else down,” Wyden said when he was asked about his relationship with Allen. “The reason I’m here is, my sense is, if you want to cut through this partisan dysfunction on Capitol Hill, you ought to go with people who actually have a track record of doing it on the kinds of major issues like energy, education and infrastructure. . . . I’m here because I think Virginia has a very special kind of leader in Governor Kaine.”
The Kaine campaign later put out a press release quoting Wyden putting a finer point on it: “I served with George Allen, and I don’t get into the business of attacking candidates, but I do believe that if Virginians want to get beyond hyper-partisanship and the practice of pitting individuals against one another, Tim Kaine is the answer.”
Allen spokeswoman Emily Davis suggested Kaine was the one who was guilty of partisanship.
“It’s ironic that former Democrat[ic] National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine is sending out a press release engaging in the same ‘practice of pitting individuals against one another’ decried in the very same release,” Davis said. “Tim Kaine may say his DNC Chairmanship ‘was not the most partisan job in America,’ but his record as an ‘unabashed supporter’ of President Obama’s failed economic policies tells Virginians the real story.”