U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine and Terry McAuliffe are both part of the small club of Virginia’s living Democratic ex-governors and two of the most influential figures in state politics.
While governor, McAuliffe appointed Anne Holton, Kaine’s wife, as his secretary of education.
Kaine has also encouraged state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, whose wedding he officiated, to run for higher office one day.
That day has arrived.
But so far, Kaine’s staying out of what’s expected to be a contentious Democratic race for the 2021 gubernatorial nomination that will likely pit McClellan and McAuliffe against each other in a field that will also include Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, D- Prince William.
“We are lucky in Virginia to have a qualified, diverse field of Democratic candidates running for governor who can do the job on day one,” Kaine said in a statement to the Mercury.
McClellan has made it no secret that she considers Kaine a political mentor and close friend. Just before the 2016 election with Kaine on the Democratic ticket for vice president, McClellan wrote a lengthy online post describing how he had pushed her to make the jump from young Democratic organizer to candidate for office.
Kaine has often praised McClellan, who like him came up through the world of Richmond politics, as an ascendant Democratic star. But it remains to be seen whether that relationship might translate to an endorsement for her rather than McAuliffe, who is expected to formally enter the race soon, bringing a bigger profile and legendary fundraising abilities.
McClellan’s campaign has spotlighted the Kaine association, rolling out endorsements from five Kaine administration alums willing to vouch for her policy chops and legislative relationships that they say will translate well to the Executive Branch.