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It had been a long day. They had done some last-minute campaigning for an hour, then moved to downtown Richmond, Va. and checked into their hotel room at the Marriott. After showering twice (the hotel shampoo gave her hair a weird texture), sophomore Marlaina Kaine got dressed. Black dress and cowboy boots — not too formal, not too casual. After hanging out in their family hotel suite, the Kaine clan moved into the VIP suite. Marlaina waved to an acquaintance, Senator Mark Warner, and then sat down to watch CNN on a flat screen across the room. She was used to this sort of thing.
Her uncle had been elected governor before.
After hours and eating finger foods and anxiously checking her phone, Marlaina’s uncle, Gov. Tim Kaine of Va. mentioned in passing that he would need to start writing his acceptance speech. And in that moment, Marlaina realized her uncle had won.
But this time, he won a senate seat.
For her whole life, sophomore Marlaina Kaine has been affected by her uncle’s career in politics. She’s spent hours campaigning for her him, days away from home during election nights, rallies and speeches. Nov. 6 was no exception.
“You could tell that people were nervous,” Kaine said. “But everyone was there just to have a good time. It wasn’t super tense.”
Although she’s only 15, Marlaina has gone to political gatherings and parties for years. Tim, a Democrat, was first elected Mayor of Richmond, Virg. in 1998, then became Lieutenant Governor of Virg. in 2002, Governor in 2005 and finally Senator last Tuesday.
Marlaina has had many different opportunities because of her uncle’s political power, including going to the 2008 presidential inauguration. On several occasions, she’s been really close to Joe Biden and Barack Obama, but never close enough for an introduction.
Like her uncle, Marlaina and her family consider themselves democrats.
“I am biased, but my family has always told me to look up things and find out things for myself,” she said. “But they still do push towards the democratic side. Being around that a lot has definitely altered the way I see things, but my beliefs are my own.”
Although Marlaina’s family is Catholic, they try to separate their religious beliefs from their political beliefs.
Throughout her life, Marlaina’s uncle’s involvement in politics was considered normal in her family. It wasn’t out of the norm to be escorted out of a Chiefs game by the secret service when her uncle was in town, and when her uncle missed a phone call from Vice President Joe Biden, it wasn’t considered a big deal.
“I think that it’s really cool, the things that he does,” she said. “I agree with his views in politics, but it’s kind of funny to see him at family gatherings, because you wouldn’t really think that he’s in [politics.] There’s definitely a contrast.”
Marlaina sees her uncle’s family two to three times a year at Thanksgiving and family gatherings. She’s close to her aunt and her cousins Nat, Woody and Annella. But even though her uncle is a former governor and current senator, they’re still close. He’s just a normal guy.
“It hasn’t affected my relationship with my cousins or my aunt or uncle,” Kaine said. “I mean, maybe it made us a little closer. He’s just my uncle, and he’s worked really hard and made a lot of great opportunities for himself and his family.”