Tim Kaine draws ex-Ron DeSantis advisor as possible GOP challenger

A former advisor to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will seek the GOP nomination to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine next year, according to the Washington Post.

Scott T. Parkinson, now the Vice President of government affairs at the conservative economic advocacy group Club for Growth, is the first challenger to enter the race after Kaine announced earlier this year he would seek re-election to a third term. 

Parkinson served as a congressional staffer for DeSantis when he was a U.S. Representative. 

The Washington Post reports Parkinson became interested in running for Senate amid frustrations over pandemic-era shutdowns, and landed on the U.S. Senate race after Glenn Youngkin, a fellow Republican, won the Governor’s race in 2021, marking the first GOP statewide win in more than ten years. 

“It’s something I started thinking about pretty seriously in January, and a lot of it is because of this blueprint that Governor Youngkin has laid out, giving Republicans the opportunity, I think, to win statewide in the commonwealth,” Parkinson told the Post. “So there was some logic behind the decision to do it now and not wait 10 years.”

Kaine will have a distinct advantage in the race against any GOP challenger. The state is nearly 52% Democratic, according to L2 voter data on statewide voter registrations. By contrast, fewer than 29% of the state’s voters are registered Republicans. Kaine also boasts much bigger name recognition as a long-serving U.S. Senator and the former running mate to Hillary Clinton in her 2016 presidential campaign. 

And the last time Kaine was on the ballot he won re-election by 16 percentage points. 

But Youngkin’s win showed the nearly 20% of independents, and likely some moderate Democrats, are willing to cast a ballot for GOP candidates. Still, the GOP managed to flip just one of three U.S. House seats targeted in the 2022 Midterm Elections, with Democrats surviving largely on momentum from the Supreme Court overruling of Roe. v. Wade.

The Post reports Parkinson has already released a digital ad focusing on inflation and “insane federal spending, and that Democrats in the state have already begun attacking Parkinson on abortion.

Parkinson told the Post he is a “pro-life conservative” but would not elaborate on his position on abortion bans or answer directly whether he would support a 15-week abortion ban or exceptions for rape, incest or danger to life of the mother. 

In Kaine’s re-election announcement, he laid out a platform centering on workforce development and immigration.

Parkinson plans to run a similar campaign to Youngkin, including using the same political consultants and strategists from Axiom Strategies. The plan also draws on efforts to focus on parental rights in education, public safety and the economy, according to the Post. 

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