Voices of Virginia Democrats — Jennifer McClellan: Tim Kaine encouraged me to run for office.
I first met Tim Kaine when he was Mayor of the City of Richmond and my City Councilman. I had recently founded the Metro Richmond Area Young Democrats and asked him to headline a fundraising event for us. He graciously agreed. It was clear he was one of the most down to Earth elected officials I had ever interacted with. A few years later, I was Chair of the Third Congressional District Democratic Committee and he was our nominee for Lieutenant Governor. That cycle, I campaigned with the Warner-Kaine-McEachin ticket all over the 3rd District, and watched as he met potential voters with the same ease as if he were talking to old friends. The last week of the campaign, I followed the ticket from one end of the 3rd District to the other for a series of rallies. The last one was in Portsmouth — a good two hours away from Richmond — late in the evening. When Tim found out I had driven by myself, he told his driver, “I’m riding back with her. I talk to you all the time. I don’t get to talk to her very often.” It was classic Tim.
On the ride back we talked as if we were old friends, about our mutual love of history, politics, and baseball. He asked if I ever wanted to run for office. “One day, maybe,” I responded. That night began a friendship and mentorship that I will always cherish. Four years later, my Delegate retired to run for Lieutenant Governor. Lots of friends asked me if I planned to run. I wasn’t sure I was ready. So, I called up Tim to get his advice. “Why not now?” he asked. He reminded me of our drive from Portsmouth and convinced me I was ready THEN. So why not now? Classic Tim. He was in the middle of his own campaign for Governor, but took the time to give me advice. As a result, I was proud to be elected to the House of Delegates the same night he was elected Governor.
On election night, I visited with him shortly after he gave his victory speech. He had changed to jeans and a t-shirt, and was sitting on the floor with a staffer’s child. “Congratulations, Delegate!” he beamed. “Congratulations, Tim… I mean Governor.” “No, just Tim,” he responded. I smiled. Classic Tim.
As Tim Kaine’s Delegate, I was proud to carry legislation for him fighting against sexual violence and as part of his energy plan. I watched him lead us through tough times like the Great Recession and the Virginia Tech tragedy, and good times, like the 400th Anniversary of the landing at Jamestown and a visit from Queen Elizabeth. Through it all, he remained just Tim.
Over the years, Tim has been a great friend and mentor; he even officiated my wedding. What I love and admire about Tim is how humble and caring he remains after years in public service. At his core, he is a kind, compassionate man who just wants to help people and make the world a better place. He understands that as smart as he is, he doesn’t have all the answers, and truly listens to others, a trait that is all to rare in politics today. He can connect with anybody, and is just as comfortable talking to the Queen as a kindergartener. When he asks “How are you?” it is not just a perfunctory greeting — he genuinely wants to know. This is who Tim Kaine is and why Democrats, Republicans, and Independents like and respect him. He will make an excellent Vice President and through it all, he will remain Classic Tim.
Jennifer McClellan has represented the 71st District in the Virginia House of Delegates since 2006. She lives in the City of Richmond with her husband David Mills, and their children Jackson and Samantha. She is a member of the Democratic National Committee and Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus.