In the late 1990s, Farrell was CEO of the Pittston Co., a coal, transportation and security conglomerate that Allen had lured to Richmond from Connecticut. The newly relocated executive went to get a Virginia driver’s license but was turned away.
“You had to have either a tax bill or a utility bill [to prove residency], which I didn’t have because I just moved down,” Farrell said. “So the next week, I was at a function with the governor, and I told him about it. And he said, ‘We’ll fix that.’ And we jumped in his car. He drove me to the DMV. He told the people he’d vouch for me, and to give me a driver’s license, which they did.”
To Farrell, the brash young governor who cut through all but the last scrap of DMV red tape — “They did make me take the eye exam,” the now-retired executive noted — was the height of can-do leadership.
Operating with less gubernatorial swagger and under vastly different economic circumstances, Democrat Timothy M. Kaine had some accomplishments but was unable to deliver on most of his campaign promises. But both men, rivals seeking to succeed retiring Sen. Jim Webb (D), still managed to leave office widely popular.
Allen, the Redskins coach’s son with an outsize personality, conspired with a go-go economy to pull off a host of big-ticket reforms. Kaine, the understated former Catholic missionary, led Virginia amid the worst economy since the Great Depression. Severe fiscal constraints forced Kaine to focus on that crisis — upsetting some with unpopular budget cuts but protecting the state’s sterling bond rating and top priorities like education and the environment.
And so, a typical Tim Kaine story goes more like the one former Republican state senator Brandon Bell tells about approaching the Democrat with a bill to ban workplace smoking. Leaving Kaine’s office after a seemingly productive meeting, Bell recognized a man waiting to see the governor. It was the CEO of Philip Morris, a major tobacco company.
“It could have been easy to think in the back of my head, ‘Oh, I’ve been had. He’s just playing me,’ ” Bell said.
The kicker to Bell’s story is that Kaine eventually pulled off a compromise measure banning smoking in restaurants — a significant achievement, given tobacco’s powerful role in the commonwealth’s history and economy.
“George Allen probably accomplished more in his four years than any governor I served under, and the reason for that is, he probably had more money than any governor I ever served under,” said former Republican senator John Chichester, who chaired the Senate Finance Committee. “Tim Kaine didn’t have two nickels to rub together.”
In a phone interview, Allen recalled his tenure as a contentious but productive stretch whose reforms have “stood the test of time.”