Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton announced Friday night that former Kansas Citian Tim Kaine is her pick as vice presidential running mate.
Kaine, 58, a Democratic U.S. senator from Virginia, is scheduled to appear with Clinton at a Florida rally on Saturday.
Clinton announced the pick in a text message to supporters and on Twitter a few seconds later described Kaine as “a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others” and “a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it.”
Kaine’s roots in the Kansas City area run deep.
His upbringing in Overland Park included working Saturdays at his father’s metal fabrication shop, being elected student body president and assisting Jesuit missions in Honduras. He graduated in 1976 from Rockhurst High School.
Kaine learned fluent Spanish serving the Central American poor — first as a high school sophomore and later as a Harvard law student revisiting Honduras on a year’s sabbatical. He likely will make strategic use of his language skills during campaign stops leading to the Nov. 8 general election.
Despite a political career that could put Kaine a breath away from the U.S. presidency, “he is absolutely the same Tim Kaine I knew in high school,” said longtime friend and Kansas City lawyer Steve Miller.
“Success has not given him a big head.”
His parents, Al and Kathleen Kaine, are native Kansans who met as students at Kansas State University. They still live in the Kansas City area, as do Tim Kaine’s two younger brothers — one a lawyer and another a pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital.
“We’re proud of all three of our kids,” Kathleen Kaine, a retired home economics teacher, said this week.
After 46 years in the same house on the 9800 block of Cedar Drive, Al and Kathleen Kaine not long ago moved out of the comfortable neighborhood where Kaine and his brothers grew up.
Born Timothy Michael Kaine in St. Paul, Minn., he was a toddler when his father landed work as an electrical engineer at the former Bendix plant in south Kansas City. Al Kaine eventually would launch his own ironworks operation. His young sons, rousted from their beds on Saturday morning, were required to help.
“Tim was very hardworking,” his mother said. “A good student. Really a voracious reader.”
Today “boring” is how many political wags describe the first-term U.S. senator, ex-chairman of the Democratic National Committee and former governor of Virginia.
Kaine in interviews has called himself boring. But Kansas City area friends who have stayed in touch dismiss the label, saying his civil demeanor and moderate stances are needed in such charged political times.
Even as a teen with bushy hair, “he could engage with anybody,” said Kent Immenschuh, a technologies director at JE Dunn Construction Co. “That’s a trait he’s carried forward.”
To Immenschuh, who picked Kaine to be best man at his wedding, “it’s absolutely hilarious that people would consider Tim Kaine boring.”
Immenschuh chuckled recalling a summer when he and Kaine were among friends working in an Ozarks restaurant. At night the teenagers took turns placing pies beside the head of a sleeping buddy, then waited for him to roll into it.
One morning Kaine awoke to a face full of pie.
“He didn’t say a word,” Immenschuh said. “Just stood up with pie all over, walked out to the trail, to the end of a dock, and jumped straight into the lake.
“Not one word. … Tell me that’s boring.”
After Friday’s announcement, Immenschuh promptly texted Kaine: “Surreal, but unsurprising.”
Kaine attended public schools through eighth grade. For high school, his Catholic parents chose to enroll him at rigorous and all-male Rockhurst. Kaine would later recall resisting the move, but he couldn’t dissuade his parents.
Most other students entering the Jesuit-run prep school had come up through the parochial system and were among friends. “Tim had to make his way among strangers,” said classmate Miller.
Yet Kaine found swift acceptance and friendship from divergent groups: He joined the school’s yell squad, debate team, pastoral committee and choir.
Kaine’s second year at Rockhurst featured a life-changing excursion.
He joined other students on a missionary trip to Honduras. His mother said the spiritual impact on Kaine — whose passions up to that time were the Kansas City Royals and reading — would take some in his family by surprise.
Laurence Freeman of the school’s alumni development office: “He saw the want that was so pronounced there in Honduras. I think it had a huge effect. Tim has always made the point that it was that trip that made him start to think about what he’d do with his life.”
It’s when brother Patrick Kaine first noticed what he called “a commitment by Tim to faith and serving others.” But at no time did Patrick Kaine guess that his big brother would enter politics.
Tim Kaine enrolled at the University of Missouri with the intent of studying journalism. He would later say that he found his post-Watergate classmates eyeing news careers to be “a very cynical lot,” so he switched to economics.
He earned a law degree from Harvard and was admitted to the Virginia bar. In Richmond, Va., he married Anne Holton, a judge and the daughter of a former Virginia governor. Another decade would pass before Kaine would win his first election to the Richmond City Council, where he furthered his advocacy for people who had been denied housing opportunities because of their race or disability.
Looking back, said brother Patrick, Tim Kaine’s jump to politics made sense. It started with fair housing at the local level and ballooned from there. “I now see it all as an outgrowth of his interest in service,” Patrick Kaine said.
Tim Kaine and Holton would make Virginia their home. The couple and three children visit Kansas City for the holidays. Tim Kaine now and then addresses students at his high school alma mater.
In 2006 he was able to break free from the Virginia governor’s office to attend the 30th reunion of his Class of ’76.
Making it to the 40th reunion would be tough. It’s scheduled for October, during the thick of the presidential race.
Democratic reaction Friday was positive.
Damien Gilbert, a Democratic delegate from Wichita and college student, said he wasn’t surprised by the pick.
“He’s a very solid guy,” said Gilbert, calling Kaine safe, less risky than other potential running mates.
Amber Versola, a Democratic delegate from Lenexa, said Kaine might help Democrats in Kansas races in the fall.
Versola said she hopes Kaine will campaign in the Kansas City area, energizing Democrats.
“This is where his roots are,” she said. “It provides a great opportunity for us.”
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, called Kaine a “terrific” selection.
“We now have a ticket that signals that they are the grownups,” she said.
“I challenge you to find a member of the United States Senate whose first reaction to Tim Kaine is anything other than he’s a really nice guy.”
McCaskill said Kaine “will be a real antidote to all of that fear and anger and darkness on the other ticket.”
The Star’s Dave Helling and Steve Kraske as well as The Star’s news services contributed to this report.