For Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Hillary Clinton’s running mate, “no issue has been as fraught politically or personally as the death penalty,” the New York Times reports. His handling of capital punishment shows that he recognizes — and expediently bends to, his critics suggest — the reality of the Democratic Party and the state he represents. Kaine presided over 11 executions as governor, delaying some but granting clemency only once. He said that as governor, he was sworn to uphold the law. Kaine, 58, is well liked even by many Republicans. His centrist appeal is one reason Clinton added him to her ticket.
Some death penalty opponents cast his decisions as political survival and ambition. “Tim is a politician,” said Jack Payden-Travers, who ran Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty when Kaine was governor. “Even though they say they’re not running for the next office, there’s always something coming up.” In a 2009 interview with the Virginian-Pilot, he said each clemency decision had been “very painful,” though his experience as a lawyer had prepared him. “I’ve eaten the last meal, and I’ve held the guy’s hand, and I’ve been to the Supreme Court, and I’ve been to the protests, and I know this very, very well,” he said. “And because of that, it was kind of demystified.”