Former Virginia Governor and Democratic National Committee Chair Tim Kaine asked hundreds of fellow Democrats to “Get their hands dirty,” in his first major speech since declaring his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, at the Fairfax County Democratic Committee's annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner in McLean last night. The rallying cry also kicked off the campaign season for many state and local elections in the county.
“The reach of your ambition and your opportunity depends on your perseverance,” said Kaine. “At the national level, people are talking about Virginia like we’re the new Ohio or the new Florida. Virginia is the only true battleground state in the country that has massive elections all over the state in 2011.”
Kaine left the Governor’s Mansion 17 months ago, and, many say, will most likely face former U.S. Sen. George Allen in the 2012 general election. The race will prove to be one of the most closely watched in the country – a face-off between two popular former Virginia governors in a presidential election year.
The U.S. Senate race is a “no-brainer,” said Virginia Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw. “[Kaine] is one of the most competent elected officials I have ever met. He is absolutely brilliant,” he said.
Kaine was quick to criticize his opponent. “State spending went up more in the Allen administration, more than anyone who has ever served as the governor of Virginia,” he said. “In 2001, [Allen was] sworn in as a senator with the biggest surplus in the history of the United States. Six years later, [he] left office with one of the biggest deficits in the history of the United States. When Republicans talk about fiscal responsibility… you see dramatic plans to essentially scrap Medicare, to shred the safety net that so many of our seniors depend upon.”
Kaine resigned as chairman of the Democratic National Committee last month after declaring his candidacy. “I was under the belief that [Senator] Jim Webb was going to be running again. When he called me and said, ‘I’m not running,’ my strong inclination was to stick with my little turf over at the DNC and focus on the president’s reelection,” he said. “But let there be no doubt about it. I’m not doing it grudgingly… I’ve never lost a race and I’m not going to lose this one.”
The Party Faithful
Democrats are outnumbered 39 – 61 in the Virginia House of Delegates. “Listen up, party members. Our Democratic districts in Fairfax are owned by Republicans,” said Ken Plum (36th District), who chairs the Virginia State House Democratic Caucus. “If we’re going to take over the House, it starts in their house… We’ve got a lot to do and we’ve got a lot of seats to pick up.”
It’s also an election year for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, on which seven of 10 members are Democrats. “I think members of the Board of Supervisors have done an outstanding job of navigating through a very difficult recession," said Board Chair Sharon Bulova. “We’ve been able to maintain quality services, our school system remains among the best in the nation, if not the world. We’re the safest community of our size in the United States and we’ve been able to continue to provide compassionate human services during a period when people need them the most.”
Some believe that Democrats need a better message. “We’ve got to remind people what we inherited when George Bush left office – a disastrous economy, problems with our friends and neighbors around the world,” said Terry McAuliffe, former DNC Chair and 2010 Virginia gubernatorial candidate. “President Obama has come in and he’s saved the auto industry and 1.5 million jobs, put the economy back on track with the largest middle-class tax cut in U.S. history, but nobody knew about it in 2010 and we allowed the Republicans to define us. You can never let that happen. We’ve got to remind the people who we are and what we’re going to do for them.”