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Is Kaine afraid of the Bedford Bulletin?

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By John Barnhart


    Along with the Virginia Press Association’s annual writing contest, the Bedford Bulletin takes part in the annual contest that Landmark Community Newspapers (LCNI) holds. LCNI is the company that owns the Bulletin along with 55 other community newspapers located in several states.
    Tom Wilmoth, our editor, normally writes the editorial that appears in our opinion pages. One that he wrote last year won second place in this year’s contest.
    Part of the comment that the judges wrote on this editorial brought to my mind the way Tim Kaine dodged the media when he came to Bedford last month for a fundraiser.
    The judges wrote, “The first entry takes a creative approach: an imaginary interview with the former governor and possible future Senate candidate, taking him to task for a terrible decision. It’s a clear warning to this politician: If you show up here, you’d better get your story straight.”
    The editorial appeared in the Feb. 23, 2011, edition of the Bulletin when Kaine was was being mentioned as a possible candidate for the U. S. Senate. Kaine had not yet thrown his hat in the ring at that point. The action that the editorial imagined asking Kaine about was his decision to allow double-murderer Jens Soering to be transferred to Germany right in the last days of his term as governor. This decision was immediately retracted by Bob McDonnell after he was inaugurated and Soering remains in a Virginia prison.
    When we learned Kaine was coming here for the fundraiser, which would be at the Bedford “Democratic” Party headquarters on West Main Street, in Bedford, I contacted local party officials and they passed on my request to talk to Kaine at that event, along with my contact information. Of course, I planned to ask Kaine to explain why he made the Soering decision. I also planned to ask why he did it without notifying the Bedford County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, or the Bedford County Sheriff’s office, or consulting with the family of Soering’s victims. The Kaine campaign never contacted me and local party people told me that the fundraiser was closed to the media at Kaine’s request.
    I called Kaine’s campaign to ask about this policy and his spokesman said that Kaine fundraisers are closed to the media because they are usually held at a private home. This one, however, was not held in a private home. It was held at the local party headquarters, a place where the public, and the media, for that matter, is normally welcome.
    So, is Tim Kaine afraid of the Bedford Bulletin?
    Bedford County consistently votes overwhelmingly Republican and this fact made me think of one of the last debates that Creigh Deeds and Bob McDonnell held in 2009 before the gubernatorial election. It was held at Roanoke College in Salem, and both Salem and Roanoke County lean strongly Republican. After the debate, Deeds did not hang around to talk to any media. He got out of there so fast that he almost sucked the air out of the building as he left. Somebody commented that he must have thought he was in “Indian country.”
    Kaine may not be afraid of just the Bedford Bulletin alone. He may be afraid to talk to any media in this area. There’s no telling what we’ll ask him and it may not be just me or Tom that may pose a question that he will have trouble answering, something he really doesn’t want anybody to ask. Kaine may have totally written off Bedford County, with the exception of appearing before a guaranteed friendly audience, consisting of party activists, to pocket some campaign cash and get out of Dodge.
    However, both Tom and I would still love the chance to talk to him and ask him what he was thinking back in 2009. There’s an open invitation for him to talk to us, and his staff knows where to find us.