The Collegian
Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Tim Kaine returns home to Richmond, greeted by rally of longtime supporters

<p>Tim Kaine's plane taxis to the hanger where hundreds of supporters wait to hear him speak.</p>

Tim Kaine's plane taxis to the hanger where hundreds of supporters wait to hear him speak.

Just seven hours before polls opened in Virginia, Sen. Tim Kaine landed at Richmond International Airport in front of more than 1,000 supporters to close the campaigning season with his friends, family and neighbors.

The rally was a welcoming home, more than anything. Kaine, a former mayor of Richmond and governor of Virginia, said he recognized many faces in the crowd packed into the Million Air hanger, including his parents and people he had worked with as a civil rights attorney.

"This hanger is filled with the great memories that make a life worth living," Kaine said.

Kaine electrified the room, warming an otherwise cold night with an infectious positivity. Many of the people who came to the rally had already committed to Hillary Clinton and Kaine, but were there to "welcome him back" to his home in Richmond, Jon Baker, a VCU chemistry professor and longtime Democrat, said. For some, Kaine was the biggest draw on the ticket.

"I'm voting for Tim Kaine," said a member of a labor union, who asked not to be named because of his employer's policies. He said he didn't know how he felt about Clinton or Donald Trump, but Kaine's work with his union convinced him to vote for the senator and his running mate.

"I align with (Kaine) even more so than Hillary," Beverly White, a kindergarten teacher in Chesterfield, said. "I'm pro-life, I just don't think banning (abortion) is the answer."

Though Kaine mentioned Trump in his speech, criticizing his comments on women, Mexicans, prisoners of war and more, the Republican nominee wasn't the focus of the night. Some people said they hoped to stop Trump with their vote, but only after listing numerous other reasons they wanted Clinton in office.  

"She's the only candidate who guarantees my rights as a woman," Julia Blend, a freshman at VCU, said. Blend supported Bernie Sanders in the primary, but she changed her allegiance after he endorsed Clinton in July.

At the rally, which was intended as a Get Out The Vote effort, Kaine said it was crucial that Virginians show up to the polls on Tuesday to redeem their commonwealth's history. He described the progressive changes the U.S. made through history "in spite of Virginia," such as ending slavery and ratifying the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote. When Obama won Virginia in 2008, history was made "because of Virginia," Kaine said.

"We got some scar tissue here, folks," Kaine said. On Tuesday, Virginians have an opportunity to make progressive history and elect the first female president, he said.

Though Kaine and his wife, Anne Holton, were the primary draw of the event, they were a relatively short closing act to a long night of celebration. Supporters started lining up in an airport parking lot before 6 p.m., and entered the hanger just before 8 p.m. Following high school and local folk bands, speakers such as Donald McEachin, candidate for the fourth congressional district, and Terry McAuliffe, governor of Virginia, revved up the crowd in anticipation of Kaine's arrival. 

Kaine didn't speak until 11:30 p.m., five and a half hours after some people had arrived.

But after he left the stage, nobody looked disappointed. The energy, warmth and smiles with which the diverse crowd had greeted Kaine resonated as they left the hanger to make their voting plans and encourage friends to follow suit.

On Tuesday, Kaine will cast his ballot at his home precinct in Richmond before heading to New York City for election night.

"We're proud of Tim Kaine being from Virginia," John White of Chesterfield said. "I have faith that America will choose correctly."