The Washington Times - May 18, 2011, 11:22AM

Several hundred supporters of Tim Kaine paid $150 to $1,000 each to mix and mingle at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria and cheer on former Gov. Tim Kaine in his U.S. Senate bid.

Virginia’s one of the most exciting places to run for office, Mr. Kaine told the crowd. When he married his wife, Anne, and moved to Richmond in 1984, Virginia was in the bottom tier of states on income and education—and was so solidly GOP that it didn’t get much attention on the national stage.

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“We feel like we’ve just witnessed a spectacular evolution of the state,” said Mr. Kaine, a Democrat. “We’ve become more socially inclusive, we’ve become more politically competitive, we’ve become more economically just. When I realized this race was a battle about those principles, I said, of course I’m going to run.”

Mr. Kaine stalled so that Sen. Mark Warner, who hosted the fundraiser, could dash in last-minute after being held up by a Senate floor vote on cutting tax breaks for oil companies. Inciting waves of laughter, he said he looks forward to joining Mr. Warner in the Senate—”even though he will call me junior senator every day.”

“It is a ways to go from being His Excellency to junior senator,” Mr. Warner said. “I can say that to him now. I couldn’t say that while we were trying to convince him to run.”

It took persuading by party leaders and even President Obama to convince Mr. Kaine to jump into the race after Sen. Jim Webb surprised everyone by announcing his retirement next year. Mr. Kaine will likely face former Gov. George Allen in an expensive, nationally watched matchup.

Rep. James Moran introduced Mr. Kaine to the crowd, which included state Sens. Mary Margaret Whipple, Patsy Ticer, state Delegate Charniele Herring and a number of other elected officials and party donors.