"Though she describes herself as 'safely on the Democratic side,' Holton sees bipartisanship as an essential ingredient missing in today's politics. Disenchanted by the inaction resulting from deepening partisan divides, she said one of the reasons she finds it so important to fight on her husband's behalf this year is the philosophy of compromise that he shares with her father. 'Both of them believe you've got to work together and reach across to work with people who come from different perspectives. Both of them believe in fiscal responsibility and social moderation,' she said. 'So their philosophies aren't that different, nor are they different than mine.'"
"Finding a way back to middle ground, Holton says, is the central reason that she has decided to play an even more prominent role in the homestretch of Kaine's crucial race in a state that could decide not only control of the U.S. Senate, but also the presidential contest."
Anne Holton brings life in politics to Kaine's campaign
By: WESLEY P. HESTER | Richmond Times-Dispatch
Published: September 03, 2012
The last time Anne Holton hit the campaign trail, she was backing a Republican candidate for Virginia governor. The year was 1969, and the candidate happened to be 11-year-old Anne's father — Virginia's 61st governor, Linwood Holton.
This time, Holton's backing a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate who happens to be her husband — Virginia's 70th governor, Timothy M. Kaine.
Politics, obviously, is nothing new to Holton. A Roanoke native, she first moved into the Executive Mansion in 1970 when her father became the first Republican governor in the state since Reconstruction. Her second four-year stint came in 2006, when Kaine was sworn in.
For decades, Holton — a former juvenile court judge — has quietly supported her husband's political ascent from Richmond City Council to governor. But Kaine's all-important U.S. Senate battle with fellow former Gov. George Allen marks the first time that Holton, unencumbered by the judgeship, has been able to jump into the fray.
She has done so with gusto, holding more than 100 campaign events this year alone while maintaining her day job as a consultant with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, continuing the work she began as first lady as a children's welfare advocate.
Last week, Holton's profile rose as Kaine's campaign launched a radio ad, "Family Issues," using her voice to reach out to independents and women as she traveled the state on a whirlwind university and community college tour.
"It makes for a very full life, but fun," Holton said of balancing her burgeoning political role with a career and family.
She has but one complaint.
"My earliest campaign memories include going to the Apple Blossom Festival and riding in the parade with Dad, and that was back when you got to throw candy," she said. "Now they won't let you throw candy very often. It's a liability issue or something. What could possibly be wrong with throwing candy to people?"
While Holton is not as seasoned a campaign veteran as Allen's wife, Susan, her lifelong exposure to politics has made her a keenly effective politician in her own right. So much so, in fact, that Kaine has begun to rely on her as not only his top surrogate, but also as an adviser.
Kaine said Holton has come to serve as a political barometer of sorts. Often dispatched to remote parts of the state to meet with business, veterans' and women's groups, Holton reports back on the mood of voters, offering suggestions on the campaign's tone and message.
"She's such a warm person that when she's out on the trail either speaking on my behalf, or listening … she really makes good connections," he said, "but then she'll bring back to the team and to me good insights about needs and issues that are important to people."
Virginia political commentator Bob Holsworth said: "Anne, like Susan Allen, is smart, politically savvy and very knowledgeable about the context of Virginia politics," adding that she is "a true political partner."
Larry Sabato, head of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, who has known Holton since she was a child in the Executive Mansion, remembers her as "whip-smart and focused on the nonpolitical matters of youth," never guessing that she'd end up in a major political role of her own.
Sabato said Holton's place in the campaign and the seemingly idyllic 27-year marriage between her and Kaine could pay off politically.
"Democrats tend to do better with single women more than married women. The fact that (they) are so happily married with a great family is a plus in appealing to married women," he said.
* * * * *
Holton got her first taste of publicity at the age of 12, when her father — the state's freshly elected governor — enrolled his children in Richmond's predominantly black public schools when federal courts ordered desegregation.
Attending Mosby Middle School, Anne often pedaled her bicycle to school from the Executive Mansion. She also still tells the story of leading a late-night pajama parade around the mansion with friends during a sleepover party for her 12th birthday.
Holton would go on to attend Open High School, where she took an election class in 1972 requiring students to work in one of the two local presidential headquarters.
"This was kind of a hippie crowd, so everybody was working in McGovern headquarters, but here I was in this Republican family," Holton recalled. "So what I did was work in both. I worked in Nixon headquarters and McGovern headquarters. And I've got to be the absolute only one in the world that did that, but it was fascinating."
After graduating magna cum laude from Princeton with a degree in economics, Holton met her future husband in 1982, her second year at Harvard Law School. Kaine had started a year ahead of Holton but took off a year to work with Jesuit missionaries in Honduras.
Holton, who was leading a student organization at the time, first heard of Kaine from a classmate.
"Someone said you ought to go recruit this fella who's been off in Honduras for a year. He's cute," she recalled. "I recruited him very effectively."
"She would bake cookies and bring them because she was trying to get my attention," Kaine said. "I don't remember the cookies, but I definitely remembered her."
The couple married two years later at the Catholic church in Richmond they still attend — St. Elizabeth.
After earning her law degree, Holton spent a year as a U.S. District Court law clerk before spending more than a decade as a legal aid lawyer for low-income clients in the Richmond area.
In 1995, pregnant with her third child and as Kaine was making his start in local politics, Holton took a break, becoming a stay-at-home mom for a couple of years. During that period, she occasionally served as a substitute judge for the city's Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. Finding the work rewarding, she was intrigued when the court was expanded to add a fifth judge.
But with Kaine throwing his hat in the ring for Richmond mayor and three kids at home, Holton had reservations. When Kaine urged her to apply, though, she did. She was sworn in as a judge June 30, 1998, and Kaine was sworn in as mayor the following day.
"Juvenile court is a very special place — all the challenges and burdens, but also all the opportunities," Holton said. "Some of these kids have been through experiences you would never wish on anybody in a whole lifetime ... and yet are still resilient. And sometimes the ones who are the most trouble are some of the ones who've got the strongest spirit."
After Kaine transitioned from law to politics and quickly climbed the ladder, his jump from local office to state office was unexpected, Holton said.
"I guess what surprised me was when he jumped into the lieutenant governor's race in 2000," she said. "Tim said he was going to jump in and I said, 'Sure, no problem.' I agreed to it because I thought he'd never get around to raising money."
For months, he didn't, she said, "but roundabout January of 2001, he kicked in and he's been seriously engaged in politics ever since."
Holton served as a judge until Kaine was elected governor in 2005, choosing to use her new title as first lady to make a difference in a different way.
"I knew from my mom's experience that Virginia very generously gives first ladies an opportunity to spotlight an issue you care about and do something with it," she said. "I knew I wanted to do something with our older kids in foster care."
Working with Marilyn Tavenner, secretary of health and human resources under Kaine, Holton led a sweeping reform of the state's foster care system, aimed at keeping teenagers in foster care with families.
"Over half of our teenagers, when I started working on this issue, were in group homes and institutional settings instead of with families," she said, noting that after three years of work, that percentage was cut in half.
* * * * *
Though she describes herself as "safely on the Democratic side," Holton sees bipartisanship as an essential ingredient missing in today's politics.
Disenchanted by the inaction resulting from deepening partisan divides, she said one of the reasons she finds it so important to fight on her husband's behalf this year is the philosophy of compromise that he shares with her father.
"Both of them believe you've got to work together and reach across to work with people who come from different perspectives. Both of them believe in fiscal responsibility and social moderation," she said. "So their philosophies aren't that different, nor are they different than mine."
Resisting the Republican Party's shift toward conservatism, Linwood Holton was essentially abandoned by the GOP after his term as governor. He has continued to support candidates that he sees as moderates, including his son-in-law.
Finding a way back to middle ground, Holton says, is the central reason that she has decided to play an even more prominent role in the homestretch of Kaine's crucial race in a state that could decide not only control of the U.S. Senate, but also the presidential contest.
Given her political background, career accomplishments and ease on the campaign trail, some political observers have wondered if Holton would someday make a run of her own.
"One of the features common to both Susan Allen and Anne Holton is the belief held by many Republicans and Democrats that each could be a formidable political candidate in her own right," Holsworth said.
"They're both sharp, tough-minded and eminently practical in their approach. If either of them ever decides to test the waters on their own, they would have to be taken very seriously."
Asked about the idea, Holton was quick to dismiss it.
"No," she said. "I've always enjoyed it, but I've always said I wasn't going to put my name on somebody's bumper sticker. I just didn't see that as my role."
But, she added, "I never really thought that Tim would go into politics, either."