Sen. Tim Kaine lecture concludes decades of Sabato’s intro class political speakers
Kaine praises Miller Center, discusses death penalty
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-VA, spoke to students in Politics Prof. Larry Sabato’s “Introduction to American Politics” class Monday — the last public official to speak in one of Sabato’s introductory classes after 35 years of teaching.
Kaine discussed his background in public service, his current role as a U.S. Senator and the challenges of holding public office.
In his introduction, Sabato spoke on how rare it is to find a politician like Kaine, who he said is, “sincere, believes what [he is] saying, [and is] willing to work with people in a variety of ways.”
Kaine was the first governor to endorse President Barack Obama in 2008 outside of Illinois, and, Sabato said according to a source close to the president, Obama’s vice presidential nomination came down to a decision between Joe Biden and Kaine.
Born in St. Paul, Minn., Kaine said he grew up in “the least political way” in a family where politics were not often the topic of conversation.
After receiving a bachelor’s in economics from the University of Missouri, Kaine attended Harvard and eventually became one of just 20 Americans to have served as a mayor, governor and U.S. Senator. Kaine has also worked as a missionary, a civil rights lawyer and a teacher.
Kaine noted how the transition from governor to senator can be unpleasant due to the relative lack of power, but that the solution he found was to “pick a couple passions and go after them.”
“Governors are notoriously unhappy in the Senate after being at the top of the pyramid,” he said.
Kaine called on University students to engage in public service and even run for public office if they have the opportunity.
“[The] reasons keep getting longer and longer why good people don’t run for public office,” he said.
Kaine later praised the work of the University, citing his current projects with fellow Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, which draw upon the work of the University’s Miller Center. The two senators introduced war powers legislation to the Senate that closely resembled legislation originally proposed by the Miller Center’s National War Powers Commission.
After the speech, University students had the opportunity to ask Kaine questions. One student questioned the senator’s wavering position on gay rights.
“My opinion has changed dramatically,” Kaine said.
As a religious man, Kaine said he had maintained a traditional view of marriage that he did not question until roughly a decade ago. He credits his children for his evolving position, saying they encouraged him to see “equality is equality.”
Another student asked about Kaine’s opinions on Virginia’s unique one-term limit for governors.
“[The term limits inhibit] Virginia governors’ ability to build a national profile,” Kaine said, but added that he did not see the policy ever changing. “Everyone in legislative positions either wants to be governor or they don’t. … The ones who want to be governor want more chances and those who don’t [want to be governor] want a weaker governor and a stronger legislature.”
Kaine was also asked about his views on Virginia’s death penalty. Kaine, who is opposed to the penalty, said his experience as governor under the practice was “incredibly painful.”
Roughly a dozen executions occurred during Kaine’s term as governor, but Kaine vetoed any bill aimed at expanding the perimeters of the death penalty.