Tim Kaine hosts public Q&A with voters


By Michael Eberhart, News Editor

Senator Tim Kaine hosted a “Community Conversation” event to answer questions from his Virginia constituents on Thursday, Feb. 1, in the Dr. A.J. Ferlazzo gymnasium in Woodbridge.

Opening with a reading of “I, Too,” a poem by Langston Hughes, Kaine was then introduced by members of the Virginia Democratic Black Caucus. Eschewing the microphone stand that was set up for him, Kaine stepped up to the audience to speak about his work in the senate and his reelection campaign for 2018, before taking questions from voters.

Kaine began by noting that February is Black History Month, and explained that the recognition and celebration of African-American history is also central to “the roots of diversity” in Virginia, going back to the first English colony at Jamestown.

“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now,” Kaine said, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The senator then answered audience questions about topics ranging from the recent federal government shutdown to immigration reform. Continuing his theme of diversity, Kaine noted that Virginia is home to 13,000 “Dreamers,” and described the upcoming expiration of DACA protections in March as an opportunity to enshrine those protections into law. Kaine explained that doing so would prevent presidential executive orders from reversing those protections in the future.

Many other questions from the audience related to allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Kaine first pointed out that he is the only current member of the senate with a child in the military. He explained that his own son, a Marine, had recently deployed to Russia’s borders as part of defensive agreements with other NATO countries. Kaine said that this had made him particularly concerned about Russian aggression around the world, but also illustrated why it is necessary for Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation to finish before policymakers draw their own conclusions.

The final questions of the night were all related to healthcare expansion, and led to some tension in the crowd. Kaine said that he supported the “Medicare X” bill — which he introduced with Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) in Oct. 2017 — instead of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-VT) “Medicare for All” proposal, because an estimated 100 million Americans already have health insurance through their employer, and 80 percent have reported that they would not want to change to a single payer plan. This provoked an angry outburst from one young man in the crowd, who interrupted the senator’s response.

“He is lying,” the man said, but soon allowed Kaine to respond. The senator explained that his proposal would be more incremental and pragmatic than Sen. Sanders’s bill, but that he believed either would be preferable to the Republican alternatives.

With the 2018 midterm race already well underway, other senate candidates in Virginia will be hosting more events with potential voters in the months ahead. Kaine is running unopposed in the Democratic primary, but the Republican nomination is a five-way race between frontrunner Corey Stewart, E.W. Jackson, state delegate Nick Freitas (R-30th), Ivan Raiklin and Ron Wallace.

Photo by Michael Eberhart