Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton announced her vice-presidential running mate by text to supporters today. She will unveil U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, formally tomorrow.
Virginia’s Kaine is a centrist pro-Israel choice who should please moderate Jewish voters as Hillary’s No. 2.
“He’s not going to appeal to the Bernie Sanders voters. He’s a centrist,” Ron Halber, executive director of the Greater Washington JCRC, told the Forward. Halber has forged a relationship with Kaine both as governor and as senator.
Kaine might offer some ammunition to Israel hawks as an early endorser of the Iranian nuclear deal, and like her he chose to skip Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress.
But as a middle-of-the-road-Democrat and a co-sponsor of Iran-related legislation, Kaine made choices that, when it came to the nuclear deal, drew attention in the pro-Israel community.
“I’m not dumb, I knew not going to the speech might make some folks mad with me — there would be a political price,” Kaine told the Forward shortly after. “But I felt so strongly as a matter of principle that this was done in an entirely inappropriate way.”
Kaine, who has also served as head of the Democratic National Committee, has visited Israel several times and has supported the funding of Iron Dome systems and the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act. Halber noted that he was a “very good friend” of the U.S.-Israel partnership, but he added that if chosen as vice president, he may want to see movement on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. “His social background and his sympathy to the oppressed will likely make him want to see a solution,” he said, “but he will also support defending Israel in the U.N. and expanding the relationship.”
Kaine is a member of a small group of senators who participate in a biweekly reflection group organized by the Faith and Politics Institute.
“I had many, many personal deep conversations with him, and he is genuinely a friend of Israel,” said Rabbi Jack Moline, one of the group’s moderators. Moline believes that much of Kaine’s worldview was shaped during his work as a Jesuit missionary in Honduras. “It had an immense influence on his understanding of the need to make the world a better place.”
In Virginia, Kaine hosted the first Passover Seder in the governor’s mansion.
Before entering the U.S. Senate the well-liked Kaine had been the mayor of Richmond, governor of Virginia and chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Kaine, 58, is a fluent Spanish speaker after serving as a missionary in Honduras, and his presence on the ticket could help Clinton in Virginia, a heavily contested swing state.
Another senator, Cory Booker of New Jersey, along with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack were among the final contenders.
The announcement had been expected. The Wall Street Journal, citing Democrats familiar with the search, had said she was likely to make the announcement on Friday and Kaine was believed to be the pick.
Clinton, a former secretary of state, will be formally nominated as the party’s presidential candidate at next week’s Democratic convention in Philadelphia. Her choice of Kaine as running mate could provide an early signal about her plan of battle against Trump.
Picking Kaine, a veteran mainstay of the Democratic establishment with plenty of governing experience, emphasizes her message that Democrats will offer a serious, steady alternative to the unpredictable Trump after the chaotic Republican convention that closed on Thursday.
Booker, a charismatic rising star in the party, would have given her candidacy a jolt of energy as Clinton enters the three-month grind of the general election. Booker, 47, would have been the first black vice president and his help might still be vital to boost turnout among young and African-American voters.
Other potential contenders on Clinton’s short list included U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a liberal favorite, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and Hispanic Cabinet members Julian Castro and Thomas Perez.—With Reuters
This article was updated at 8pm EST to reflect Hillary Clinton’s announcement of her running mate.
This story "Tim Kaine, Pro-Israel Centrist From Virginia, Hillary Clinton’s Vice President Pick" was written by Nathan Guttman.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, was the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.