Talk with Gov. Tim Kaine

Governor Tim Kaine (D-VA)
Governor Tim Kaine (D-VA)
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Tim Kaine (D-Va.)
Governor of Virginia and Chairman, Democratic National Committee
Wednesday, January 13, 2010; 10:00 AM

Tim Kaine, Democratic governor of Virginia and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was online Wednesday, Jan. 13, at 10 a.m. ET to discuss his political legacy as he moves out from the state capital of Richmond and Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell (R) moves in, plus his plans for the Democrats in the midterm elections.


Gov. Tim Kaine: It's great to be on with the Washington Post readers and I look forward to answering your questions.


Harrisburg, Pa.: How do you think the health-care issue will affect Democratic Congressional races in 2010?

Gov. Tim Kaine: I believe that passage of health care, which I'm very confident will occur soon, will create a tailwind for Democrats going into the the 2010 midterms.


Reston, Va.: Governor, thank you for your service! Will a final part of your legacy include restoring the voting rights of felons who have paid their debt to society and seek to regain their full place in the community?

Gov. Tim Kaine: I have used the executive clemency powers tor restore voting rights for more than 4,400 Virginians. That is by far the most rights restorations that any Virginia governor has done. Some have asked me to issue a blanket order restoring voting rights for an unknown number of unnamed individuals who have not applied to have their voting rights restored. While I am still wrestling with this request, I have some concerns whether it would be a use of the governor's powers in accord with the Constitution or not.


Great Falls, Va.: 1. How can Virginia attract more foreign investment to help with economic development and job creation when it has closed many of it's international offices responsible for attracting such investment? Is this not counter-productive?

2. I heard Senator Warner last week speak about a proposal to help states increase foreign investment by giving $10,000 for each new job created by such investment. What do you know about this and what do you think?

Gov. Tim Kaine: The overseas offices d4efinitely have been affected by the budge challenges of the past few years, but we have continued to attract sizable investments overseas because of Dulles Airport and the Port of Virginia. These two international trade assets, together with our accolades for a business-friendly climate and our well-educated workforce, have proven very attractive to foreign countries. Just as example, in my term, we have attracted significant investments from Volkswagen, Ikea, Areva, Canon USA, Rolls Royce, Continental (German auto parts firm) and many other foreign-parent companies.

I have not heard about that particular proposal. We want to do all we can to grow jobs but I would want to make sure that incentives given to foreign companies to invest should not be given to domestic companies that invest.


Richmond, Va.: How's the transition going with Governor-Elect McDonnell?

Gov. Tim Kaine: I think the transition is going very smoothly. I am very well acquainted with members of Bob McDonnell's senior leadership team and I've instructed my chief of staff and leadership team to work closely with them. My wife Anne has spent significant time with Maureen McDonnell to help the family make the transition to living in the executive mansion.


Richmond, Va.: What's your opinion of the judges ruling yesterday allowing the lawsuit related to the VA Tech shootings to proceed?

Gov. Tim Kaine: I have not read the court's ruling, but Virginia state law generally makes it difficult to have cases dismissed before trial.


Boston, Mass.: It looks like the Republicans are more energized than the Dems right now, which leads to turnout. What can the Dems do to not only get their base excited again, but get independents to the polls?

Gov. Tim Kaine: We certainly saw some races in 20098, especially the governors races in Virginia and New Jersey, show greater Republican energy. This was in contrast to federal races in 2009 -- Democrats won all five special elections for congressional seats even in some tough Republican districts. In my own backyard, just last night Democrats won a state senate seat in a Republican district that had been vacated when the office holder was elected attorney general in early November. So going further in 2010, we know we will face energized opposition and we have to be smart about turnout strategies.

The best thing we can do to energize Democratic and independent voters is to lay out the strong record of success our president has achieved in his first year. I believe that the passage of the health care bill will lead to an assessment to all the progress President Obama has achieved on his first year, which has certainly been one of the momentous of any president in the modern era. In addition to telling the presidential success story, we have to use organizing tools that were effective in 2008 to make plain to the voters the significant consequences of the midterm elections.


Vienna, Va.: Dear Gov. Kaine:

As a supporter of yours, I wanted to thank you for the good work that you have done for the Commonwealth. You provided sound, honest, and realistic leadership in trying times, and succeeded more often than not, in spite of opposition that seems to view doing nothing as an accomplishment.

Having said that, I do think your taking the position of DNC chair before your term as governor expired was a mistake. I understand that President Obama really wanted you for the job, and perhaps in better times it might have made more sense, but this wasn't the time to try to ride two horses at once.

Can you tell us why you decided to do that? Thanks very much.

Gov. Tim Kaine: During 2009, when I have served as governor and DNC chair, Virginia has been named the best state for business by all three business publications that publish annual rankings. We have been accorded a Triple A bond rating for financial management by every rating agency. We have attracted two Fortune 500 companies to move their headquarters from other states to Virginia. We also achieved a significant victory in convincing the legislature to bar smoking in bars and restaurants. We did all this while managing Virginia through the toughest economy since the 1930s, maintaining our position as a state with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation and one of the highest median incomes.

I only took the DNC job on the condition that I would be able to focus energies on governing Virginia well in a very difficult time and I think the track record of results has shown I have done that.

I have also been able to build relationships in the White House that have been beneficial for Virginia in a variety of areas including the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay, decisions about military installations in Virginia and other important matters.


Church Hill, Richmond, Va.: Gov.,

Thanks for your service. I think you deserve great credit for enacting a smoking ban in Virginia, a state where tobacco leaves are carved into parts of the Capitol. Can you give us some insight on how you were able to get that enacted?

Gov. Tim Kaine: I tried it three years in a row and finally got a breakthrough. While there is quite a bit of complicated legislative strategy involved, the most important reason for success was that legislators finally noticed a strong shift in public opinion favoring such a ban.


Goochland, Va.: Governor Kaine: Thank you for your fine service to our great state. My son Elijah goes to school with your son. I'm sorry to say I'm the one who almost ran you over pulling in to the awards ceremony last month. It seems although Virginians are definitely Republican and Democratic with very different points of view we still can get things done by working together. Is there any chance you can take some good ole Virginian common sense with you as you go on to the National scene?

Gov. Tim Kaine: Thanks for your kind words and thanks for missing me in the parking lot. While we have our differences in Richmond -- for example, I was never able to convince my legislature to invest more money in roads -- we generally work pretty well together. That was one of the reasons why President Obama asked me to lead the Democratic Party. While I will always strongly promote and defend the president, I will always try to treat the other side with respect and encourage the opportunities to work together for the good of the country.


Cambridge, Mass.: Are you excited for Martha Coakley to join the Senate Democrats in D.C.? Do you think she will win?

Gov. Tim Kaine: Yes. I participated in a call with Martha yesterday with a number of leaders from around the country and we all were very excited about her public service background and her prospects for victory.


Alexandria, Va.: Gov. Kaine - thanks for your service and best wishes heading the DNC! With the new Gov. taking office soon, I wonder how Va. is going to continue to be one of the best run states fiscally considering the reluctance to raise taxes. Where is the $$ going to come from? I don't understand how we residents of Va. expect all the great service we get for free.

Gov. Tim Kaine: I share this concern. During my time as governor I have had to make painful budget cuts totally over nine billion dollars. But, there are also times when the right strategy is not to cut deeply into important programs but instead to find new revenue to support the services that Virginians demand. I am troubled by the number of legislators who have taken pledges never to raise taxes and hope that, as they look at the important priorities for the Commonwealth, they will be open to seeking new revenues when appropriate.


College Park, Md.: I just saw you on Meet the Press and thought you did really well.

Just a quick note.

Michael Steele mentioned "By the standards of 2002."

If he brings that up again, remind him that Michael Steele [was] specifically asked by the Washington Post if Senate Majority Leader Lott should resign and Lt. Gov.-elect Steele answered no. Michael Steele flip-flops from Trent Lott view (Politico, Jan. 10)

So I would think Michael Steele would care more about his own standards rather then anybody else's.

Gov. Tim Kaine: Thank you for the research.


Richmond, Va.: University of Richmond students are interested to know how Gov. Kaine will transition from politics back to teaching. Would you please tell students what you are looking forward to this semester, what you enjoy about teaching, and why you came back to UR (a private university) rather than following a new pursuit (a public university, perhaps)? Many thanks and best of luck.

Gov. Tim Kaine: I will be teaching at the University of Richmond every Monday. In the spring, I will be teaching undergraduate students in the Jepson School of Leadership Studies. In the fall I will be teaching a course at the law school.

I chose to join the faculty the University of Richmond for a few reasons. First, I taught at the law school from 187-1993 and really enjoyed my interactions with UR students then. Second, I am extremely impressed with UR's new president, Ed Ayers, and the vision he has for how UR can interact with the broader Richmond community.

Finally, I did not seek an opportunity at a public university because it would not have been right for a sitting governor to be seeking employment at an institution when he writes the budget and appoints the board of the institution.

I taught my first class two days ago and enjoyed the great discussion my 13 students and I had about Harry Truman's life up to the point when he became president of the United States.


Gov. Tim Kaine: First, thanks to all who have submitted questions to me this morning. And thanks more broadly to all Virginians for their support and encouragement during my time as governor. It has been a magnificent experience and I have particularly learned some great lessons by seeing how strong and resilient Virginians have been during this very challenging time.


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