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Sen. Tim Kaine says he's won't run for president in 2020

Tim Kaine, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's running mate, speaks during a campaign event in Lakeland in September. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]

Tim Kaine, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's running mate, speaks during a campaign event in Lakeland in September. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine says he'll seek re-election in 2018 but is ruling out a presidential bid in 2020.

The former Democratic vice presidential nominee said in an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday that his place is in the Senate and his decision not to run in 2020 is final.

"Period. Full stop," Kaine said.

With a heightened national profile after campaigning across the country for more than three months as Hillary Clinton's running mate, Kaine could have chosen to pursue his own White House ambitions or tried and play a leading role charting a reeling Democratic Party's direction in the Donald Trump era.

But the first-term senator and former governor said he belongs in the upper chamber, where he will be part of a Democratic minority whose ability to filibuster will be "the only emergency brake there is" on Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress.

Kaine has already been a vocal critic of Trump's appointment of Steve Bannon as a senior advisor. Kaine said Bannon's ties to white nationalism and anti-Semitism disqualify him from a senior role in the White House.

Kaine said he would continue to guard against the "normalization" by Trump of what Kaine said were un-American values, but he added that he's keeping an open mind about the billionaire businessman's presidency.

"I have a lot of concerns, but I don't think it's fair to the administration to just assume everything that was said during the campaign will be done," Kaine said, noting that Trump had already shown some post-Election Day flexibility on issues like gay marriage and the Affordable Care Act.

Kaine said there were some issues Democrats could work with Trump on, including increased infrastructure spending and raising the tax rate on carried interest, which is often used by managers for private equity firms and hedge funds to reduce tax payments.

Kaine said he plans to use his higher national profile to continue to advocate for issues he's long cared about, notably on increasing Congress' role in war-making powers.

"I've been willing to stand up and do that with a president of my own party and I tell you, I'm sure going to be willing to stand up to President Trump," Kaine said.

Kaine has twice come close to being vice president. He was on President Barack Obama's shortlist in 2008 and many expected Clinton to win this year.

On the campaign trail this year, the deeply spiritual Kaine often told supporters that the election would work out the way things are supposed to.

Kaine said Clinton's loss was "hard" to take but didn't shake his faith that the outcome was for a reason, even if not immediately obvious.

"Maybe the whole reason I'm in the Senate was less being in the Senate when there was President Obama, who was a friend of mine. Maybe the reason I'm in the Senate is for the next four years," Kaine said.

Sen. Tim Kaine says he's won't run for president in 2020 11/17/16 [Last modified: Thursday, November 17, 2016 5:26pm]
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