Kaine speaks to politics class

Virginia Democratic Senator talks political experience, addresses social issues, congressional tension


Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) spoke to Politics Prof. Larry Sabato’s Introduction to American Politics class Wednesday afternoon about his career in politics.

His past positions include mayor of Richmond, lieutenant governor of Virginia, governor of Virginia and more recently, Democratic National Committee chairman.

Students were given the opportunity to ask Kaine’s opinions on some hotly contested political issues, including gun control, the budget crisis, foreign policy and the trajectory of gay marriage rights.

Kaine said as a gun owner himself, he supports Second Amendment rights. “I believe the Second Amendment is there for a reason,” Kaine said. “The amendments are individual rights that all come with reasonable limitations.”

Kaine said he would support a limit on magazine clips. He is also considering supporting a bill banning assault weapons.

Kaine also addressed concerns about the recent financial crisis and its lingering implications, predicting all Americans will have to make sacrifices. “Cuts are going to fall hardest on the middle- and low-income people because those are the people who tend to rely on government services,” he said. “We all have to contribute.”

Kaine also addressed the dysfunction in Washington politics, attributing many of the difficulties to a lack of respect among politicians.

“You would assume that the dysfunction is largely due to differing ideologies,” Kaine said. “There are ideologies that are significant, but my observation so far is that challenges are not completely ideological but also personal.”

Kaine, originally from Kansas City, Mo., said he had never intended to become a politician. He said although he was born into a moderately Republican family, the average dinner table conversation during his childhood was much more likely to feature the Kansas City Royals than politics.

Kaine said after graduating from the University of Missouri and beginning law school at Harvard, he was still unsure of which direction his life would take. He took a one-year break from law school, which he spent in Honduras doing community service. Kaine said the experience taught him a tremendous amount about adversity, as well as the power of the democratic process.

“Nobody [in Honduras] could vote,” Kaine said. “Being around people who were really hoping for the day that they could pick their leaders changed my attitude very dramatically.”

Kaine returned to Harvard to finish his degree and practiced law for nearly 20 years, specializing in representing people who had been denied housing because of their race or disability. It was not until 1994 that he began to work in politics. “Many of you may know what you want to do with your lives, but I didn’t know until I was 35,” he said.

— an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Kaine would support a ban on assault weapons, but Kaine is still considering the details of the assault weapons bill.

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