Obama names Virginia gov as Democratic Party head
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President-elect Barack Obama named Tim Kaine as head of the Democratic Party on Thursday, rewarding an early supporter with a high-profile political post even as he continues to serve as Virginia governor.
Kaine, 50, was a finalist to be Obama's vice presidential running mate. His support on the campaign trail helped Obama win Virginia, the first time a Democratic presidential candidate carried the state since 1964.
Obama said Kaine shared his liberal but pragmatic outlook and willingness to try new approaches, and said he had improved traffic, schools and other issues for Virginia residents.
"He understands that while politics is tough and we need to fight hard for ideals and our values, we also need to work together to solve our common problems," Obama said at a news conference.
As chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Kaine will be an important advocate for Obama as he tries to pass a an economic stimulus package and pull U.S. troops out of Iraq.
Kaine's term as governor continues through January 2010, and state law does not allow him to run for a second term.
Some Virginia Republicans have complained that Kaine will be neglecting his duties as governor at a time when the state struggles with a $3 billion shortfall and will take on a far more partisan role as leader of the Democratic Party.
Kaine has said he would be able to do both jobs.
Kaine will also try to extend a winning streak that saw Democrats win control of Congress in 2006, and widen their margins in both chambers and win the White House in November. Democrats have also won a string of victories at the state and local level.
As head of the party, Kaine said he hopes to promote Obama's agenda and extend some of his signature tactics, such as soliciting small-dollar contributions from a broad base rather than relying solely on large contributors.
Kaine said his nuts-and-bolts approach helped him succeed in a state long dominated by Republicans. "We're not the ideologues, the obstructionists, the gridlock folks. We're the problem solvers," he said.
Democratic National Committee members will vote on Kaine's selection at their winter meeting on January 21. He will replace former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.
(Additional reporting by Steve Holland)
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