Richmond’s Sen. Tim Kaine has emerged as the leading contender to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate, The Associated Press reported Thursday night, citing two Democratic sources who cautioned that Clinton had not made a final decision and could yet change direction.

As speculation mounted, multiple media outlets reported that U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, a former governor of Iowa, is the other leading contender.

“I’m glad the waiting game is nearly over,” Kaine told reporters Thursday after an event in Northern Virginia, deflecting questions about whether he was about to join the ticket.

Kaine will go through with his scheduled Senate fundraiser today in Massachusetts, his spokeswoman said. There was no word about whether he will attend his planned fundraiser there Saturday.

Clinton is expected to appear with her vice presidential selection in Miami on Saturday, but the logistics involved in organizing unveiling of the nominee suggest that Clinton’s choice could be announced as early as this afternoon. Clinton’s campaign is expected to make the announcement via text message to supporters who sign up on the Clinton website for updates.

An announcement seems unlikely earlier today, when Clinton will be in Orlando, where last month a gunman killed 49 people at a gay nightclub.

Clinton will then appear at a rally at the state fairgrounds in Tampa this afternoon. On Saturday, she is scheduled to appear in Miami at noon at Florida International University, where the majority of the student body is Hispanic.

Kaine, who took a year off from Harvard law school to volunteer with Catholic missionaries in Honduras, is fluent in Spanish, which would be an asset to Clinton in diverse swing states like Florida and Virginia.

The New York Times cited three unnamed Democrats as saying that former President Bill Clinton “has privately expressed his support for Kaine,” a former Richmond mayor, lieutenant governor and governor, who served in Virginia’s Executive Mansion from 2006 to 2010.

Vilsack will be at events in Missouri before returning to Washington early this evening.

Barack Obama, the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee, vetted Kaine before he ultimately chose U.S. Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware as his running mate. Kaine, elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012, has since burnished his credentials by serving on the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees.

At events in Northern Virginia on Thursday, Kaine dodged questions about his political future.

“I said all along what I’m going to say now: I’m a happy senator, and I’m not looking for another job,” Kaine told reporters gathered Thursday at an immigration event in Arlington, according to The Washington Post.

Kaine’s wife, Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton, also deflected vice presidential speculation when asked during a break in Thursday’s meeting of the SOL Innovation Committee in Richmond.

“I absolutely have got my focus on education here in Virginia, and I’m happy to talk about that,” she said.

It was mostly quiet outside Kaine’s North Side home Thursday evening. His wife arrived at about 6:40 and parked beside a black Volkswagen station wagon that had been there most of the day. There was no sign that Kaine was home.

A short time after getting home, Holton left to take the family dog for a walk and returned about 20 minutes later. At about 7:20, television crews arrived and began to stake out the house, although there was no sign Kaine was there.

The only other discernible movement from inside the house came when Holton opened the front door for a neighborhood friend who stopped by for visit at about 8.

Anyone passing by the home Thursday night would have been hard-pressed to believe that a potential vice presidential candidate lived on the quiet residential street.

Whether or not Clinton introduces Kaine in Florida as her running mate, the Virginia senator will be in Philadelphia next week for the Democratic National Convention.

Kaine will be one of only two Virginia officials who will give speeches, according to party officials. The other will be Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Clinton confidant who, like Kaine, is a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.


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jnolan@timesdispatch.com (804) 649-6061

Twitter: @RTDNolan

Staff writers Louis Llovio and Robert Zullo contributed to this report, which includes information from wire services.

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