ABC News’ Michael Falcone reports:
It might have been the worst kept secret in Washington in recent weeks, and on Tuesday it was a secret no more: Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine is running for Senate in Virginia.
Kaine, who served as governor of Virginia from 2006 to 2010 before President Obama asked him to head the DNC, made the announcement in a video message to supporters.
“I’m running for the United States Senate because America has big challenges, and I’m convinced that Virginia has answers to help strengthen our nation” Kaine said. “While we still have a lot of work to do to help Virginians who are struggling, I know Washington can learn a few things from Virginia.”
Democrats have long viewed Kaine as their best chance to keep the Virginia seat that Sen. Jim Webb is vacating in their hands. Kaine could face another former governor, George Allen, a Republican who announced in January that he would seek the seat.
Virginia will be a critical battleground state in the 2012 election cycle and Democrats have been hoping to bolster their chances, not only in the Senate race, but also for President Obama's re-election bid.
Both Kaine and Allen, who served as governor from 1994 to 1998, were popular with Virginia voters when they left office. Allen faces several primary opponents in his race for the Republican Senate nomination.
In his announcement video on Tuesday, Kaine recounts his record of service in the state, working his way up from a member of the Richmond, Va. city council to the mayor's office and later to the governor’s mansion.
“When I was Governor we worked together to cut billions from the budget, tightened our belt and made government more efficient,” he said. “We invested in key priorities like education, Rail to Dulles, cleaning the Bay and saving open space. And we brought companies like Ikea, Volkswagen, Hilton, and many others to Virginia. We were ranked the ‘Best Managed State’ in America, the ‘Best State for Business’ and the ‘Best State in which to Raise a Child.’”
Democrats, including President Obama, have been not-so-subtly pushing Kaine to run. At a recent fundraiser in New York City, the president referred to the rumors that Kaine "might plunge back into electoral politics."
“If he does,” Obama said, “I want even people up here to be paying attention and to be rooting for him.”
National Republican Senatorial Committee Communications Director Brian Walsh issued a statement making light of Kaine's apparent reluctance to jump into the race and tying him to the policies of the Obama administration.
“Now that his fellow party leaders in Washington have twisted Tim Kaine’s arm enough to get him into this race, Republicans welcome the clear contrast that his candidacy presents and the choice before Virginians next year," Walsh said in a statement. "Over the last several years, Tim Kaine has been the most vocal cheerleader in Washington for the reckless fiscal policies and massive expansion of government that have been the hallmark of the Obama Administration."
But Allen has his own liabilities too. He lost a U.S. Senate bid to Webb in 2006 after uttering a racially insensitive remark about a member of his opponents’ staff in what became known as the "macaca moment."
Kaine's coming departure from his job at the DNC, also means that President Obama will soon have to name a replacement. Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz are among those who have been mentioned as possible contenders for the job.
Kaine plans to talk about his Senate candidacy after he delivers a previously scheduled speech on economic policy at the University of Richmond Law School on Wednesday.