Run the word “boring” and “Tim Kaine” in a Google search, and be prepared for an avalanche of results. But is the man who Hillary Clinton named as her choice to be her running mate really a humdrum guy, or the kind of social justice warrior likely to keep rightwing keyboard warriors furiously typing in their basements?
Turns out, Tim Kaine presents himself as a moderate, but throughout his career, both he and his wife, Virginia Department of Education head Anne Holton, have put themselves on the front lines in changing Virginia’s entrenched system of segregation.
1. Kaine’s first case as an attorney was a racial discrimination complaint. At a 2015 conference hosted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Kaine related on arriving in Richmond after graduating Harvard Law School and renting his first apartment. His first client was a black woman who had been turned away from renting an apartment on the basis of her skin color. Kaine described it as a “There but for the grace of God” moment.” He said that when he sat across from the client, he imagined what a negative impact it would have to be told that this positive thing — of renting your first apartment — could not happen because of skin color.
During his tenure as an attorney, Kaine was one of the few Virginia attorneys who focused on fair housing cases. Approximately 75 percent of his practice was devoted to them, many of them taken on a pro bono status.
2. When Kaine was mayor of Richmond, he won a huge settlement against insurance giant Nationwide. It turns out, Nationwide is on your side if you were white. In 1998, Kaine won a $100.5 million suit against the insurance company for “redlining,” the discriminatory practice of restricting insurance provision in minority neighborhoods.
The suit alleged that: “Nationwide and its agents have intentionally, maliciously, wantonly, and oppressively engaged in discrimination in the provision of property insurance in African-American neighborhoods in the Richmond metropolitan area on the basis of race.”
In 2015, Kaine and Senate colleagues continued to press for investigation of unfair housing practices that continue to restrict housing opportunities for people of color.
3. Kaine lived abroad for a year, and the experience changed his life. Kaine was educated as a Jesuit. He took a year off from law school to live in Honduras. He worked as a missionary, and he taught welding and carpentry to teenagers. While in Honduras, he became fluent in Spanish. His experience in Honduras has had a huge impact on his view of the world of the haves and have-nots.
According to the Washington Post profile: “The Rev. Patricio Wade, 79, still working in Honduras, remembers Kaine as wide-eyed at his first brush with overwhelming poverty. “Tim saw a system where very few people dominated and had all the money and power.”
4. Kaine is an accomplished tenor. His love of music fuels his welcoming of cultural diversity. Kaine loves to sing and he loves music. He also plays harmonica on bluegrass tunes. One of the reasons that Kaine champions immigration is that it leads to a cultural richness that supports the arts in the community. “Immigration reform is fundamentally about wanting to be the most talented place on earth,” the Post quoted him as saying to a community group.
5. Kaine will be able to troll Trump in Spanish. Tim Kaine made history on the Senate floor in 2013, when he delivered a full 13-minute speech in Spanish (providing an English translation for insertion into the Congressional Record). While other legislators have delivered partial remarks in Spanish, Kaine gave the full speech in support of the immigration bill that was written by the so-called “Gang of Eight.”
As if anticipating Trump’s incendiary comments on who does and does not belong in America, Kane prefaced his Spanish speech with these remarks, which reminded senators that the Spanish colonized Florida prior to the English arrival at Jamestown in 1607. NPR quoted Kaine:
“I think it is appropriate that I spend a few minutes explaining the bill in Spanish, a language that has been spoken in this country since Spanish missionaries founded St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565,” Kaine explained in la lengua de Cervantes. “Spanish is also spoken by more than 40 million Americans with a huge investment in the result of this debate.”
6. Anne Holton, Kaine’s wife, shares his passion for social justice. Anne Holton has the distinction of having been the daughter of one Virginia governor — her father A. Linwood Holton, Jr. — and wife of Tim Kaine. When she was a girl, her parents made the decision to send her and her siblings to the largely black public schools. It was a controversial decision that required police protection for Anne and her sister, but it began Holton’s dedication to the cause of public education.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign also chipped in with some Kaine factoids after Friday’s announcement, see below:
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) July 23, 2016