Governor Jumping Into Races In N.Va.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
RICHMOND -- Gov. Timothy M. Kaine is planning to visit Northern Virginia today to launch a final push to help his fellow Democrats make substantial gains in the Republican-controlled General Assembly in next Tuesday's elections.
Kaine, who will campaign in Fairfax and Prince William counties, is orchestrating an ambitious effort to influence the outcome of the election, including bankrolling dozens of candidates and dispatching operatives to take over campaigns he views as faltering.
"It's like U-Va. versus Virginia Tech -- you root for your team on game day," Kaine said during an interview between campaign stops in Northern Virginia last week. "I don't know if I am going to get the majorities, but I am confident I am going to pick up seats in both houses."
His name won't be on the ballot, but Kaine said he will be sprinting across the state between today and Tuesday as if it is literally his last political campaign. Barred by law from seeking a second consecutive term, the popular governor said he will focus on building a legacy before he leaves office in 2010 instead of positioning himself for another run for office.
Kaine's political reputation could rest on Tuesday's outcome. He is frustrated by what he sees as an obstructionist House of Delegates and state Senate, but GOP leaders accuse him of introducing an aggressive partisan style into legislative races, which they say will poison his relationship with the General Assembly.
"We are going to remember this. It is just basic human instinct," said Del. Terry G. Kilgore (R-Scott). "He has gone out of his way to go against members who have helped him, so I am sure when he comes up short, he is going to find the road less traveled."
Kaine's efforts reveal a side of the governor that few residents know about. Although Kaine often preaches bipartisanship, the Harvard University-educated lawyer can be a tenacious partisan, spending hours strategizing over how to bolster the state's Democratic Party, according to his staff and friends.
"Tim's commitment to party-building has been exceeded by no governor in recent memory," said C. Richard Cranwell, chairman of the Virginia Democratic Party.
Kaine will be visiting every corner of the state as he tries to help Democrats pick up the four seats needed to retake the Senate and some of the 11 seats needed to win control of the House.
A Democratic takeover of the Senate would help cement Kaine's legacy and bring praise to former governor Mark R. Warner (D). The two have been working together to reverse the gains the GOP made in the state during the 1980s and 1990s.
Kaine "would be an architect of a party comeback," said Merle Black, a political science professor at Emory University and an expert on Southern politics. "A lot of Democrats in other Southern states will be interested in talking to him to figure out how he did it."
But the stakes go beyond political gratification for Kaine, who says he is committed to building a legacy centered around investing more in education, health, the environment and transportation.