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  1. Florida Politics

Hillary Clinton names Virginia Sen. Timothy Kaine as her vice presidential running mate

Hillary Clinton spoke to a large crowd at the Florida State Fairgrounds on Friday in Tampa. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
Hillary Clinton spoke to a large crowd at the Florida State Fairgrounds on Friday in Tampa. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Published Jul. 23, 2016

TAMPA

Hillary Clinton on Friday evening named U.S. Sen. Timothy Kaine of Virginia as her vice presidential running mate.

Minutes after 8 p.m., Clinton tweeted her selection: "I'm thrilled to announce my running mate . . . a man who's devoted his life to fighting for others."

The announcement came after Clinton spent Friday on the I-4 corridor, the fulcrum on which America's biggest swing state turns, to respond to two words in Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's acceptance speech — "I alone," as in "I alone can fix it" — with two words of her own: "Stronger together."

"He doesn't speak for me, because I know we are stronger together," Clinton told a crowd of 3,621 supporters at the Florida State Fairgrounds late Friday afternoon. "We will offer a very different vision. It's about building bridges, not walls, between people."

Most media reports during the day focused on Kaine, a former governor seen as an experienced politician who is unlikely to commit unforced errors in a hard-fought campaign.

And that was okay with Lu and Joe Seeley of Treasure Island.

"I think he's a safe candidate for her," said Joe Seeley, 66, a retired New York state government worker who attended the Tampa rally.

Lu Seeley said she had liked New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, 47, but acknowledged that he might be a little young for the job and a little radical for this election. So she said she could be happy with Kaine, who is 58.

"He knows how government works," she said. "You just can't walk into government" and expect that "everything works together."

In Tampa, Clinton depicted Trump's acceptance speech Thursday night as a dark vision that ignored America's strengths and offered a "retreat into isolationism." She said she understood that some people were insecure and anxious about their future but said Trump portrays Americans as helpless and as needing to be rescued, not resilient and self-determined.

"I've never heard of an American leader, or at least someone who wants to be an American leader, claiming that he's all we need," Clinton said. "That's not a democracy, my friends. As I recall, we had a revolution to make sure we didn't have someone who said, 'I can fix it alone.' "

Earlier on Friday, a somber Clinton met privately with family members of victims of last month's Pulse nightclub killings in Orlando and later held a roundtable with community leaders that included Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

Three days before the start of the Democratic National Convention, Clinton said the massacre of 49 innocent patrons at a popular gay club by an ISIS loyalist underscores the need for gun control and of the dangers faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

"It is still dangerous to be LGBT in America," Clinton said. "We have to stand against hate and bigotry. . . . We have a lot of work ahead of us."

She added: "We have to take on the epidemic of gun violence . . . and demand changes."

Her Orlando and Tampa visits were part of a two-day tour of Florida, with a campaign rally scheduled for today at Florida International University in Miami, where she is expected to appear with her new running mate.

While Kaine was considered the leading contender for the vice president's job, other potential candidates included Booker, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Labor Secretary Tom Perez.

It's no coincidence that Clinton came to Orlando and Tampa, both in the heart of one of America's pivotal electoral battlegrounds, the I-4 corridor that slices across the state's midsection from Tampa to Daytona Beach and serves as the gateway to Disney World, a highway that's familiar to tourists everywhere.

"The I-4 corridor has been important in every campaign when you look at Florida," said Amanda Renteria, Clinton's national political director. "You look at key battlegrounds and where campaigns are won and lost and the I-4 corridor is certainly one of those places."

The two most populous counties in the corridor, Hillsborough and Orange, have been trending Democratic for years. Both counties were critical to President Barack Obama's two Florida victories in 2008 and 2012. Other counties along I-4 — Polk, Seminole and Volusia — lean Republican. Pinellas, though technically not in the I-4 corridor, matters because it's part of the Tampa television market and is the large county with the most competitive balance between the two major parties. Pinellas is the state's sixth most populous county, and on Friday there were 800 more Republicans than Democrats in a pool of more than 600,000 voters.

Like much of the rest of the state, the I-4 corridor is getting more populous, younger and more diverse, with a steady influx of new Hispanic residents, especially in Orange and its neighbor, Osceola, home to increasing numbers of Puerto Rican voters.

The Florida politician with the longest political connection to the I-4 corridor is Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who was first elected as a state representative from Brevard County in 1972 and has won a half-dozen statewide elections as a Cabinet member and senator.

As the only Democrat who currently holds statewide office, Nelson thinks not just in terms of counties, but TV markets.

He said the combination of the Orlando and the Tampa-St. Petersburg markets (the state's largest TV market) account for 46 percent of the vote in a general election in Florida.

"It is the swing part of the state," Nelson said. "The person who carries the I-4 corridor will win the state."

During Friday's speech at the fairgrounds, Clinton emphasized that point.

"Our success in the I-4 corridor is essential to our winning," she told the crowd.

Times staff writer Jack Suntrup contributed to this report.

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