U.S. Senate hopeful Tim Kaine switched back and forth between his native English and Spanish—a language he learned on an extended mission trip to Honduras—during a campaign event in Arlington on Friday.
The former Virginia governor talked to approximately 50 Latinos about registering Latino voters, voter apathy and immigration issues at the Salsa Room on Columbia Pike. It marked Kaine's 60th roundtable discussion with Virginians since January.
"I really believe I need to be—and we need to be—voices of practical optimism," Kaine said. "We need an optimistism injection in this country...to counter a lot of the negativity and doom and gloom...that sometimes gets manufactured."
Kaine will face-off against Republican candidate George Allen, also a former Virginia governor and a former U.S. senator, in the general election in November.
Arlington County Board Vice Chairman Walter Tejada welcomed Kaine to Arlington during the event and thanked him for hiring and appointing Latinos for paid positions in his tenure as governor.
"This is a man who not only says what he's going to do and does it, he has a track record of inclusion," Tejada said. "I don't gamble in casinos like some people do, but if I was going to bet, I'd bet on Tim Kaine."
Leni Gonzalez told Kaine he is the obvious choice for Latino voters in Virginia because he is bilingual.
"We like to hear things in both languages," Gonzales said. "There are Latinos all over the state and we have to tap into them. You can talk to us directly in our language."
Kaine agreed that engaging those voters could be a deciding factor in what is expected to be a close race against Allen.
"If eligible Latinos start voting at the national average, it's such a complete game change," he said.