Tim Kaine needs more time to think.
Virginia’s former governor and the current chairman of the Democratic National Committee spoke Saturday at the Democratic Party of Virginia’s annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, where he addressed speculation around a possible run for U.S. Senate.
“I thank everyone who has encouraged me to think about running in 2012,” Kaine said. “It’s touching – it’s gratifying – to see so many people who understand that the race is important and who feel like I might be able to serve the commonwealth in this capacity.”
But Kaine did not use the platform to announce whether he would seek the seat being vacated by Democratic U.S. Sen. Jim Webb.
Kaine, who took the stage amid chants of “we want Tim,” said he will make a decision soon, after reflecting with his wife, Anne Holton.
“Whatever decision I make,” Kaine said, “I’m confident that the next senator from Virginia will be a Democrat.”
Kaine has expressed some reluctance toward a Senate bid. He said he loves his job as DNC chairman and had planned to focus his energies on helping the Democrats win the presidential race in 2012.
In his speech, Kaine echoed the “win the future” message that President Barack Obama delivered in his State of the Union address. Kaine urged Virginia Democrats to “focus on the future.”
However, Webb’s surprise retirement announcement earlier this month has cast Kaine as a strong candidate for the seat.
Other Democrats mentioned as potential Senate candidates include U.S. Reps. Gerry Connolly and Bobby Scott and former U.S. Reps. Tom Perriello and Rick Boucher, who were defeated by Republicans in congressional races last fall.
Connolly said with a smile that the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate should meet certain criteria. He said the candidate should have local governing experience, be motivated by Catholic social justice, have spent time as a missionary, proudly support health care reform and not have a moustache.
Those criteria describe Kaine to a T.
“Tim Kaine is a public servant in the truest sense of the word,” said Connolly, who sports a moustache.
U.S. Rep. Jim Moran said he hopes Kaine runs for the U.S. Senate.
“We’re fired up and ready to get you into office,” Moran told Kaine.
On the GOP side, George Allen, who held the U.S. Senate seat from 2001 to 2007 before losing it to Webb, hopes to win back his old job in 2012. And Jamie Radtke, a leader in the Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation, also plans to run for the seat as a Republican.
The Virginia race has national importance because it may help determine control of the U.S. Senate, where Democrats hold a 53-47 majority.
by Jennie Lynn Price and Jillian Quattlebaum
Capital News Service