Decision 2024

Kaine, Cao take opening shots at each another ahead of Virginia Senate race

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This fall's race for the U.S. Senate race in Virginia is now set: Incumbent Tim Kaine will face GOP challenger Hung Cao. Both men immediately went on the attack after Cao won his party's nomination in Tuesday night's primary.

As a former governor, vice presidential candidate and two-term senator, Democrat Tim Kaine is well known to Virginians. On Wednesday, he stopped by a Juneteenth celebration in Fredericksburg.

HIs newly nominated challenger, Hung Cao, is well-known to GOP primary voters.

"We won every county, every city in Virginia," he said.

But Cao now faces the task of introducing himself to a much bigger pool of voters, and Kaine is using a digital ad to suggest his challenger doesn’t value all parts of the commonwealth.

"I wanted to do something out of the gate that was Hung Cao in his own words, trashing the Staunton newspaper and calling it podunk, saying, 'Why do I need to drive to Abingdon to answer questions?'" Kaine said. "If you want to be a U.S. senator, you are going to be in a car a lot, going around the state to listen to people."

Still, one political observer questions whether the jab will really hurt Cao much.

"The fact is that most of these rural communities are going to vote overwhelmingly Republican, and they'll vote overwhelmingly for Hung Cao regardless of what he says," Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington, said. "You saw that in the primary last night; Cao did very well in rural Virginia."

A retired Navy captain, Cao's opening shot drew a contrast between his two decades of military service with Kaine’s decades in elected office.

"He sits in there and he collects a paycheck, he makes a lot of nice investments, and he’s a millionaire," Cao said. "And for the same amount of time, I served in the military and I have scars, so you tell me who fought for Virginia and who fought for America," Cao said.

News4's Julie Carey and Drew Wilder follow key races in Virginia. 

Kaine's response: "I respect his service, his public service. He should respect mine, and a person who pats themselves on the back but can't respect others' achievements, that’s a character reveal."

Cao's convincing primary win was fueled in part by an endorsement from former President Donald Trump. Cao told New4 that while he may not start out at the favorite in the race, he believes Trump will help him close the gap.

"I think we’re going to run side by side and help each other out greatly," Cao said Tuesday night.

Along with name recognition, Kaine’s other big advantage as this contest begins is money. He has more than $8 million on hand, compared to a couple hundred thousand for Cao.

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