Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine accepted the reins at the Democratic National Committee on Thursday, vowing to expand recent Democratic successes and, despite being the party’s top partisan, stress solutions, not ideology.
President-elect Barack Obama formally announced Thursday that he had chosen his friend Mr. Kaine for the chairman position, currently held by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.
The Democratic president-elect said Mr. Kaine, who turns 50 next month, is uniquely qualified to “remake the Democratic Party to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”
Each man spoke about a post-ideology vision, and Mr. Obama said they share a “pragmatic progressive philosophy.”
Mr. Kaine, who is in his last year as governor, was one of Mr. Obama’s early endorsers and was a chief adviser and campaigner during the election. He was a finalist when Mr. Obama was considering running mates.
He said he will follow Mr. Dean’s lead to see the Democrats are “a party that plays everywhere” and said he would use the same model at the DNC that Virginia Democrats have used to make major gains in recent years.
“In Virginia, we’ve rejected the politics of negativity, the politics that, you know, often energizes the 51 percent by beating up on the 49 percent, and instead try to unify people,” Mr. Kaine said, a similar theme he evoked in his successful 2005 gubernatorial race.
Mr. Obama said the party must not rest on its successes in the past two national elections, but instead strengthen “the movement we’ve built.”
Mr. Kaine said he has three goals in the new role: to be a “passionate and positive promoter” of Mr. Obama’s agenda, to “carry the proud banner of a proud party” and to “creatively engage citizens in new ways.” Mr. Kaine, wearing a red and blue striped tie, offered no partisan hits at Republicans, saying Virginia Democrats are not ideologues but rather problem-solvers.
Mr. Obama thanked Mr. Dean for his “outstanding” work leading the DNC through two elections, saying he “deserves enormous credit for helping usher in” change to Washington and leaves the party in a strong position.
He also slipped in a compliment for his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who led the House Democrats in the 2006 cycle and sometimes sparred with Mr. Dean.
Some Democrats initially scoffed at Mr. Dean’s 50-state strategy, but it paid off in 2006 when the party regained control of Congress in part because of victories in states such as Kentucky and North Carolina.
Mr. Obama built upon the idea, and captured such states as Virginia and Indiana that had been voting for Republicans for decades.
The members of the DNC will vote on Mr. Kaine’s position Jan. 21, one day after Mr. Obama is inaugurated, in what is likely a pro forma vote.
California DNC member Ed Espinoza praised Mr. Kaine as a “competent and strong choice.”