Points By Drew Pritt

Shades of 1992 in 2008???
July 29, 2008, 9:49 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Its seeming more and more likely that Governor Tim Kaine (D-Va.) will be the running-mate with Senator Barack Obama (D-Il.) Seeing the two of them together brings back the memories from 1992 and the very successful Clinton-Gore ticket. Why mess with a formula if it works? Clinton-Gore inspired youth, energy, and the future just like an Obama-Kaine ticket would. It would sharply contrast with an older nominee who picks a younger face as a running-mate….aka Bush-Quayle or McCain-Jindal/Palin/Portman/Fiorina. But theres other key reasons why it makes sense for Obama to tap Kaine and how it can help the Democratic Party.

Kaine came to public office in 1993, the same year the Democratic Party in Virginia imploded. In 1989, Virginia Democrats had united and installed Lt. Governor Douglas Wilder in the antebellum Capitol here as Governor, making him the first black ever elected Governor of any state. Prior to that Gerald Baliles in 1985 and prior to that, the son in law of former President Lyndon B. Johnson, Charles Robb had won the Governor’s chair in 1981. Robb had rebuilt the Virginia Democratic Party after liberal firebrand Lt. Governor Henry Howell had lost the Governor’s Chair in 1977 to John Dalton (R).

Robb was an innovater. He balanced the state budget without raising taxes, and dedicated an additional $1 billion for education. He appointed a record number of women and minorities to state positions, including the first African American to the state Supreme Court. Baliles was known as Virginia’s “Transportation Governor” because of the premium he placed on improving transportation in the state. In 1986, Baliles guided a $422 million-a-year revenue package through a special session of the General Assembly to improve Virginia’s transportation system, and observers still credit him with the foresight of that effort. Wilder was a reformer. Wilder has supported the death penalty and generally governed on an “anti-crime” platform that oversaw 14 executions when he was Governor. In response to a waning budget balance during his period as Governor, Wilder supported some of the most dramatic cuts in allocations for higher education in the United States.

So Attorney General Mary Sue Terry (D) entered the 1993 Governor’s race with what seemed an insurmountable 30-point lead over U.S. Congressman George F. Allen, Jr. (R) in the Virginia Governor’s race. But Allen, the son and namesake of George Allen, Sr., the former Washington Redskins football coach closed that gap. As aw-shucks folksy and sunny warm as Ronald Reagan, and with the right-leaning politics and theatrical sense of timing to match, he has stood out in sharp contrast to Ms. Terry. On the crime issue, which is as hot in Virginia as in any other state, Ms. Terry, like most Virginians, favored a waiting period for handgun purchases. But Mr. Allen struck a more resounding note by calling for more police presence and abolishing parole for people convicted of major crimes.

Besides Democratic control of the state, other important issues were debated in the campaign, some also with national implications. Among them were crime and guns, a woman’s place in the American family and the political influence of the religious right.

Kaine won election the following year to the City Council in Richmond. Four years later, Kaine was elected Mayor of Richmond. His opposition to the death penalty and support for gun restrictions and abortion rights led his conservative opponent to paint him as an extreme liberal; Kaine talked about setting aside political divisions, focused on quality of life issues. His wife, Anne Holton, is a state juvenile-court judge and the daughter of former Gov. Linwood Holton, a Republican who campaigned for Mr. Kaine. Kaine won the primary and entered the General Election with multimillionaire entrepeneur Mark Warner (D) as a prohibitive favorite.

Like Robb before him in 1981, Warner worked to restore the Virginia Democratic Party after an 8 yr. absence. Allen had been succeeded by Attorney General Jim Gillmore III (R) in the Governor’s chair. Warner and Kaine won their races. Warner drew upon a $900 million “rainy day fund” left by Gillmore. Warner worked with Democratic and liberal Republican legislators and the business community to reform the tax code, lowering food and some income taxes, and increasing the sales and cigarette taxes. Warner’s tax package effected a net tax increase of approximately $1.5 billion annually. Warner credited the additional revenues with saving the state’s AAA bond rating, held at the time by only 5 other states, and allowing the single largest investment in K-12 education in Virginia history. Warner also entered into an agreement with Democrats and liberal Republicans in the Virginia Senate to cap state car tax reimbursements to local governments, which had the effect of increasing car taxes in many localities.

In 2005, Kaine ran for and won the office of Governor of Virginia in the November general election, defeating Republican former Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore by a margin of 52%-46% percent. State Senator Russell Potts garnered the remainder. Kaine has said he will look to retain the tax and education policies of his predecessor Mark Warner and keep the budget balanced. He soon would launch a series of statewide “town hall” meetings focused on transportation.

On winning, Kaine said, “We proved that people are more interested in fiscal responsibility than ideological bickering. We proved that faith in God is a value for all and that we can all share regardless of our partisan labels. And we proved that Virginians want a Governor who has a positive vision for moving this commonwealth forward.”

Kaine was inaugurated in Williamsburg on January 14, 2006. This makes Kaine the first Governor since Thomas Jefferson (in 1779) to be inaugurated in Virginia’s colonial capital. Virginia’s Capitol in Richmond was under renovation at the time, with the process completed in mid-2007. In March 2006, after the General Assembly failed to create a budget, Governor Kaine called for a special session that didn’t end until June. The debate was over Transportation issues and how to fund current and new projects. Most of the debate came from a battle within the Republican controlled Senate and House of Delegates. In 2007, Kaine heavily amended and signed into law a transportation funding and planning plan designed and shepherded through the General Assembly by the Republican Speaker of the House, William Howell. In June 2006, Kaine signed an executive order banning smoking in all government buildings and state-owned cars. In May 2006, Governor Kaine announced his plan to conserve 400,000 acres (1,600 km²) of Virginia real property from development before the end of his administration as Governor of Virginia. Tim Kaine has given his support for the mandatory vaccinating of 6th grade girls in Virginia with the HPV vaccine and has recently signed a bill to that effect. He has dismissed all criticism, saying that the broad opt-out provision in the bill should resolve all of the concerns. When news of the Virginia Tech massacre broke, Kaine aborted a trade mission to Japan and India to attend to the situation. Kaine said he would appoint a panel of independent law enforcement officials to examine what the university knew about the student responsible for the massacre, which killed 32 people. The commission led by a former state police chief and former governor and homeland security secretary Tom Ridge began work on April 28, and issued their findings and recommendations on August 30, 2007. On April 30, Governor Kaine signed an executive order instructing state agencies to step up efforts to block gun sales to people involuntarily committed to inpatient and outpatient mental health treatment centers.


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