Sen. Tim Kaine to seek a third term

Democratic former governor’s decision makes flipping Virginia tougher for GOP

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., speaks during a canvassing event for state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Va., candidate for Virginia's 4th District House seat, in Richmond, Va., on Dec. 17.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., speaks during a canvassing event for state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Va., candidate for Virginia's 4th District House seat, in Richmond, Va., on Dec. 17. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted January 20, 2023 at 10:22am, Updated at 11:29am

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine said he would seek a third term on Friday, a decision likely to provide some relief to fellow Democrats who face a difficult map in their effort to keep their majority in 2024.

“I’m a servant. I love Virginia. I’m proud of what I’ve done. I got a whole lot more I want to do,” Kaine told reporters in Richmond after a roundtable on economic development.

Kaine said he had “been really grappling with what to do” but made a final decision last week. He told three members of his staff two days ago and the rest on Thursday night. He said it was an “unusual” type of the eight-year commitment he would make to run again and noted that making that kind of decision at age 64 is “different than at age 53 or 42.”

“Having made the decision, I’m all in. I’m ready to run very, very vigorously,” he said. “I’m ready to keep serving very rigorously.”

Senate Democrats, who grew their majority to a one-seat advantage that won’t have to rely on Vice President Kamala Harris to break tie votes last year, will mostly be playing defense in 2024 because of the number of seats up in states that went Republican in the 2020 presidential race. While Virginia remains a battleground state in the initial ratings by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales, Kaine’s decision helps shore up a seat that would be more difficult for Republicans to flip with an incumbent running. 

Kaine acknowledged his party’s “challenging dynamic” this cycle.

“We do have a tough map in 24,” he said. “In thinking about serving for the next eight years, well what’s the chance that I might be in [the] minority? That’s a significant chance.”

Kaine highlighted several legislative priorities he hopes to keep working on, including issues related to the workforce, health care and a immigration reform.

Kaine previously served as Richmond’s mayor, Virginia’s governor and as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. In 2016, Hillary Clinton selected him as her running mate during her unsuccessful bid for the White House. During the campaign, Kaine earned the nickname “America’s Dad.” 

First elected in 2012, he won that race by nearly 6 points and won his 2018 reelection bid by 16 points.

Kaine has spent the last few years dealing with long COVID-19. At a 2021 hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, he revealed the long-term effects he’d experienced after getting sick with COVID-19 a year earlier. 

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., celebrate on the final night of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 28, 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

In addition to the HELP and Budget committees, Kaine also sits on the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees. From those perches, he has advocated for Congress to take a bigger role in debating and authorizing the use of military force, something he has pushed for under both Democratic and Republican administrations. 

In 2020, he sponsored a binding resolution that would have required then-President Donald Trump to immediately cease any hostilities against Iran and Iranian government officials in the wake of an airstrike that killed Maj. Gen Qassem Soleimani, the former commander of Iran’s Quds force. The measure reached Trump’s desk, but was vetoed. Kaine said its message was not to rush into another war. 

Once considered a swing state, Virginia has become more reliably Democratic at the federal level. In 2020, President Joe Biden won the state by 10 points. Still, Republican Glenn Youngkin won the governor's mansion in 2021. Youngkin, who is limited to one term, has been mentioned as a potential 2024 candidate. 

Kaine had $2.2 million in his campaign account according to Federal Election Commission filings as of Sept. 30.