For two men who are potentially one heartbeat away from becoming president of the United States, the average voter doesn’t know very much about Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia and Republican Vice Presidential nominee Governor Mike Pence of Indiana. During the one and only vice presidential debate on Tuesday night, each candidate will make the case that their running mate is the best person for the job. But for all of the media attention this election cycle, there has been hardly any coverage at all for the bottom of either ticket. Here is the most important information you should know about the vice presidential candidates ahead of their debate Tuesday night.
Their careers mirror each other. Senator Kaine served as governor of Virginia before being elected to the senate in 2012. Governor Pence was one of Indiana’s representatives in the House before running for governor in 2012. Kaine arrived to Congress the year that Pence left, so they never worked together. This also means that they both have executive and legislative experience, so their qualifications likely won’t be a talking point during the debate.
In addition to political news not really mentioning them, they haven’t really mentioned each other. On the campaign trail, both candidates have focused on criticizing the opposing presidential candidate or espousing the ideals of their running mate.
Some of Senator Kaine’s positions are closer to a traditional Republican platform than a Democratic one. Kaine is personally opposed to abortion and the death penalty, positions that are influenced by his Catholic faith. Kaine’s positions on these controversial issues show that he can separate his own personal views from what is legal and what is best for the country as a whole.
Senator Kaine is also a gun owner and supporter of the Second Amendment, though he is in favor of gun control. Kaine was governor during the shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007, which Kaine says was “the worst day of my life, and it will always be the worst day of my life.” Kaine also participated in the Congressional sit-in this summer to show support for gun control legislation.
Senator Kaine may be a good luck charm for the Clinton campaign, because he has never lost an election. Kaine is one of only 20 people in U.S. history to have served as a mayor, a governor and a senator. Kaine was elected as a city councilmember in 1994, as mayor of Richmond in 1998, as lieutenant governor of Virginia in 2002, as governor of Virginia in 2006, and as Virginia’s junior senator in 2012.
Senator Kaine is a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Which means that he used to be in charge of the whole Democratic Party. If that title sounds familiar, it’s probably because emails sent within the DNC were leaked this summer, showing their preference for Hillary Clinton, causing the chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, to resign.
Kaine spent a year on a mission trip to Honduras, during which he became fluent in Spanish. He made a speech in Spanish on the floor of the Senate during a debate over an immigration bill that he supported.
If you had heard of Governor Pence before his nomination, it’s probably because of a controversial law he signed in Indiana. At last year’s White House Correspondents Dinner, President Obama made a joke about having such a close friendship with the vice president that certain restaurants in Indiana wouldn’t serve them. That law, which allows for businesses to refuse to serve same-sex couples for their own religious reasons, was signed by Governor Pence in 2015.
Governor Pence is well-liked by traditional conservatives. Pence calls himself “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan called him a personal friend. Pence may be able to help Donald Trump win the evangelical vote: social conservatives who are uncomfortable with Trump’s infidelity and multiple marriages.
During the Indiana primary this spring, Governor Pence admitted that he was planning to vote for Ted Cruz, who suspended his campaign after losing the state to Donald Trump. However, Pence was careful to mention that he was “not against anybody.”
Pence hosted a political TV and radio shows in the 1990s. While his shows must have been very different from The Apprentice, both he and his running mate have television experience prior to campaigning.
In my research for this article, I could not find anything about Pence’s career in Congress. Political news outlets reported that he almost always voted along party lines, but his actual voting record is nowhere to be found. Why? Because Pence himself had his Congressional record sealed. Make of that what you will.
Here is an article that I wrote about Senator Kaine when Secretary Clinton chose him as her running mate, so you can click on that link for more information about Kaine’s positions and policies. I wasn’t assigned an article on Governor Pence, so in the interest of fairness, here is an article with a similar format that the Washington Post wrote. Or you can check out NPR’s profile on each candidate: Senator Kaine and Governor Pence.