The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Kaine going to Senate to ‘find common ground’
BY CHELYEN DAVIS
AND LINDLEY ESTES
RICHMOND—Democrat Tim Kaine narrowly won Virginia’s U.S. Senate race Tuesday, besting Republican rival George Allen to keep both of Virginia’s Senate seats in Democratic hands.
Kaine had about 52.1 percent of the vote to Allen’s 47.6 percent.
Allen conceded the Senate election just before 11 p.m.
Kaine told a jubilant crowd of Democrats at Richmond’s Marriott hotel that his victory shows that elections can’t be bought by outside money —third-party groups poured about $50 million into this race, the majority of which went to anti-Kaine ads.
Kaine, who emphasized bipartisanship during the campaign, said that with the election over, it’s time to “come together and find common ground and find solutions to our nation’s common problems.”
Elected officials need to get the federal government to function again, he said.
“I’m optimistic that we can,” Kaine said. “Unlike some of the doom and gloom you see perpetrated out there, I’m not pessimistic, because we’ve been through tough times before and we’ve come out stronger.”
Kaine thanked Allen and Allen’s wife, Susan, who kept as vigorous a campaign schedule as Allen did.
“I want to thank him for his years, more than 20-plus years of elected service to Virginia,” Kaine said. “The former governors club of Virginia is kind of a small one, and we both share a deep, deep love for this commonwealth and this country.”
In his concession speech, Allen said he called Kaine to congratulate him and pledge his support to moving Virginia forward.
He said that the close nature of the race shows how divided Virginia is politically.
Though he didn’t win, Allen said, “I’m glad we got off the sidelines and fought.”
He said the conservative, small-government issues he ran on didn’t prevail in the Senate race, “but they must in the nation.”
“We’re not happy with the results but still alive,” Allen said. “So long as they don’t kill you, keep fighting.”
The 10 localities that make up the Fredericksburg region supported Allen over Kaine, 54 percent to 46 percent, according to unofficial returns.
Traditional Democratic strongholds of Fredericksburg and the counties of Caroline and Westmoreland backed Kaine.
Those same three communities backed Obama over Romney, who won the rest of the region with 55 percent of the vote.
The Senate battle between two former Virginia governors was a long, hard-fought campaign, with Allen declaring his candidacy nearly two years ago and Kaine following suit just a few months later.
For Allen, it was an attempt at a comeback after losing his Senate seat after just one term to Jim Webb.
Webb announced in early 2011, though, that he would not seek re-election, leaving Democrats looking for a candidate. Kaine was initially on the fence, but mounted a vigorous campaign.
Allen had several primary opponents, but focused his race on Kaine. Polls showed the race between the two tied for more than a year.
It became the most expensive Senate race in the country, with more than $82 million spent—$50 million of it from outside groups bent on swaying the race.
Kaine focused his race on bipartisanship, selling himself as a candidate who would go to the Senate and flout the partisan atmosphere by working with members of both parties.
He portrayed his term as governor—which ended at the start of 2010 and was still fresh in many voters’ minds—as one in which he worked with Republican lawmakers to achieve success on things such as banning smoking in restaurants and winning best-state accolades.
Having been chairman of the Democratic National Committee for two years—a job that required him to promote President Barack Obama’s policies—it was impossible for Kaine to divorce himself from the less popular of those policies.
He didn’t try, avowing support for issues such as the federal health care law.
On fiscal policy, Kaine again aimed for a bipartisan tone, proposing to help close the federal debt and deficit by budget cuts and raising taxes on those earning more than $500,000 a year—a compromise, he said, when other Democrats were proposing tax increases for those making more than $250,000 a year.
Kaine will now be Virginia’s junior senator, as its now-senior senator, Mark Warner, reminded him Tuesday night.
“It’s so good when a really good guy wins,” Warner said. “We’re going to make great partners in the United States Senate.”
Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028