Tim Kaine, Virginia's Democratic lieutenant governor, is a transplant from the Midwest who is comfortable in big cities, loves the state's history and finds purpose in confronting its contradictions of race and class.

Jerry Kilgore, the Republican former attorney general, is a native of the state's rural southwest, grandson of a tobacco farmer and son of parents who thrived on small-town politics.

Neither candidate for governor is much like the sniping, dirt-hurling simpletons portrayed in their TV ads.

Tuesday's column visited with Kilgore; today, a sense of Kaine. Kilgore, friendly and folksy, connects better with strangers. Older women find him easy on the eyes. Kaine, less physically gregarious, is a much more willing and engaging conversationalist.

Kaine happily riffs on almost any topic thrown his way. Where Kilgore answers questions in a few direct words, Kaine might offer, "Three reasons, in ascending order of importance," laying out his rationale in orderly courtroom manner.

When I asked each candidate about his favorite presidents, Kilgore extolled Harry Truman in less than 10 words, four of which were "The buck stops here." Kaine also cited Truman and proceeded to describe seeing the former president in Independence, Mo., note that Truman was the last president not to have gone to college, and quote from Truman's letters, including one to his mother explaining why he had to integrate the Army.

Kaine was inspired to enter politics by books and movies that spoke to his mind and heart about the inequalities that shape American life.

At Karen's Diner in Richmond, he digs into a mammoth plate of pigs in blankets (sausages wrapped in pancakes), sips on decaf and talks with relish about the works that propelled him toward law school and a civil rights practice: Richard Kluger's "Simple Justice," a masterful history of the Supreme Court's 1954 school desegregation decision, and "To Kill a Mockingbird," the film made from Harper Lee's novel of race, class and human dignity in a Southern town.

Despite a campaign that, like most Democratic efforts these days, tries to match Republicans in treating taxes like the return of tuberculosis, Kaine in conversation sounds more like -- egad -- a liberal.

After concluding that it's "not very productive to spend a lot of time in dialogue about race," he prefers to remind white friends to "find some part of your life and be in a minority; challenge yourself in your church or club or charity. In this kind of thing, blacks understand whites more than whites understand blacks." Kaine found his minority status at his Catholic church in Richmond, where his is the only white family remaining. Living in Honduras, where he spent a year as a missionary, he came to cherish soulful congregations.

While Kilgore is not much of a reader, Kaine loves to talk books. His favorites: George Orwell's "Homage to Catalonia," "about the pathology of ideology"; Flannery O'Connor's short stories, for their spiritual themes; and Mario Vargas Llosa's novels, for their depiction of the individual's fight for freedom in the face of social repression.

There's not much TV viewing in Kaine's house, which, as he puts it, is home to "one of the last American families without cable" -- a decision made in self-defense, "otherwise I'd watch baseball all the time."

Like Kilgore, Kaine doesn't see many movies these days, except with his kids. Last seen: "Herbie Fully Loaded" ("not bad.") Favorite: "Citizen Kane."

Kaine's wife, Anne Holton, is a juvenile court judge and daughter of former governor Linwood Holton. The Kaines have two sons and a daughter, who attend public school in Richmond.

Tim drives a Dodge Dakota pickup and Anne a Chrysler minivan, though he's optimistic that "we may finally be aging out of the minivan."

Kaine plays harmonica and has been a tenor soloist in his church's gospel choir. He listens to his favorite music, jazz of the Charlie Parker bop era, on -- another parallel with Kilgore -- his XM satellite radio, "the best gift anyone's ever given me."

One last similarity: Kilgore and Kaine have made their kids the same promise. In a few weeks, they'll either move into the governor's mansion or spend a lot more time together. They're at your mercy.

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