U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)
Democratic U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine said Friday that he’ll run for a third term, a choice that could boost his party’s chances of keeping Virginia blue in 2024.
Speculation that Kaine might retire after serving two six-year terms drew national reporters to a coffee shop in Richmond’s Church Hill neighborhood, where the senator held a roundtable discussion with young civic leaders before addressing the press about his closely held plans for the upcoming election cycle.
“I’m a servant. I love Virginia. I’m proud of what I’ve done. I’ve got a whole lot more I want to do,” Kaine said. “What makes me happy is to try to help other people. And so many people have helped me.”
The senator pointed specifically to immigration reform as a big piece of unfinished business he’d like to continue working on.
“The unemployment rate is so low that employers everywhere — every hospital, every school system, the Farm Bureau, the general contractors, the Chamber of Commerce — they’re starting to knock on our doors and say do some immigration reform. An immigration reform bill that’s really focused on the workforce, I think that has some possibility even with the partisan division.”
A former Richmond mayor and Virginia governor, Kaine was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012, defeating former Republican Gov. George Allen in a heavyweight battle for an open seat. Four years later, he made an unsuccessful bid for higher office as the vice presidential running mate of Hillary Clinton. Kaine bounced back in 2018 by crushing Republican challenger Corey Stewart, a hard-right conservative who had closely aligned himself with former President Donald Trump.
No matter who runs against him in 2024, Kaine would presumably be the frontrunner given Virginia’s trend of voting Democratic in presidential years. But the Republican resurgence current Gov. Glenn Youngkin led in 2021 has raised new questions about how competitive future statewide contests in Virginia might be.
“I think we’re battleground, maybe a little bit on the blue side,” Kaine said. “But we’re battleground. That just means you’ve got to assume it’s going to be close.”
Asked if he thinks Youngkin might be a potential opponent in 2024, Kaine noted that Virginia governors don’t usually leave early for a higher office because the state Constitution gives them only four years in the governor’s mansion.
“Could he be?” Kaine said. “I assume anybody could run against me. Because it’s an honor to represent Virginia in the United States Senate.”
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