Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton announced Friday that her vice-presidential running mate will be Virginian Senator Tim Kaine - a centrist pro-Israel choice who is likely to please moderate Jewish voters as Hillary’s No. 2.
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“He’s not going to appeal to the Bernie Sanders voters. He’s a centrist,” Ron Halber, executive director of the Greater Washington JCRC, told the Forward. Halber has forged a relationship with Kaine both as governor and as senator.
Kaine might offer some ammunition to Israel hawks as an early endorser of the Iranian nuclear deal, and like her he chose to skip Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress.
But as a middle-of-the-road-Democrat and a co-sponsor of Iran-related legislation, Kaine made choices that, when it came to the nuclear deal, drew attention in the pro-Israel community.
“I’m not dumb, I knew not going to the speech might make some folks mad with me — there would be a political price,” Kaine told the Forward shortly after. “But I felt so strongly as a matter of principle that this was done in an entirely inappropriate way.”
Kaine, who has also served as head of the Democratic National Committee, has visited Israel several times and has supported the funding of Iron Dome systems and the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act. Halber noted that he was a “very good friend” of the U.S.-Israel partnership, but he added that if chosen as vice president, he may want to see movement on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. “His social background and his sympathy to the oppressed will likely make him want to see a solution,” he said, “but he will also support defending Israel in the U.N. and expanding the relationship.”
Kaine is a member of a small group of senators who participate in a biweekly reflection group organized by the Faith and Politics Institute.
“I had many, many personal deep conversations with him, and he is genuinely a friend of Israel,” said Rabbi Jack Moline, one of the group’s moderators. Moline believes that much of Kaine’s worldview was shaped during his work as a Jesuit missionary in Honduras. “It had an immense influence on his understanding of the need to make the world a better place.”
In Virginia, Kaine hosted the first Passover Seder in the governor’s mansion.
The well-liked Kaine could meet those qualifications. Before entering the U.S. Senate he had been the mayor of Richmond, governor of Virginia and chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Kaine, 58, is a fluent Spanish speaker after serving as a missionary in Honduras, and his presence on the ticket could help Clinton in Virginia, a heavily contested swing state.
Clinton, a former secretary of state, will be formally nominated as the party’s presidential candidate at next week’s Democratic convention in Philadelphia.
By picking Kaine, a veteran mainstay of the Democratic establishment with plenty of governing experience, seems to emphasize her message that Democrats will offer a serious, steady alternative to the unpredictable Trump after the chaotic Republican convention that closed on Thursday.
Reuters contributed to this story.