Tim Kaine, currently chair of the Democratic National Committee and Virginia's former governor, announced Tuesday that he will run for the United States Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Jim Webb.
Ending weeks of speculation about his future, Kaine declared his candidacy in the 2012 election in a Web video, just as President Obama did in kicking off his reelection effort Monday.
Stressing his roots in the state and his record as governor, Kaine tells supporters that he's running because "America has big challenges, and I'm convinced that Virginia has answers to help strengthen our nation."
Kaine's announcement follows a period in which advisors say he genuinely wrestled with the decision over whether to continue serving the president he was among the first to endorse or waging his own campaign again for the first time in seven years.
When Webb announced his decision to retire, Kaine initially seemed reluctant to run. But Obama himself emerged as one of his top boosters, and he told Democratic donors just last week Kaine would be an "outstanding senator" if he chose to run.
The Virginia Senate race promises to be one of the most fiercely contested of the 2012 cycle, as Democrats seek to maintain their six-seat majority in Congress' upper chamber after losing the House in 2010. Kaine's closeness to the president figures to be a major storyline in that race, especially as Obama contends for that state's 13 electoral votes at the same time.
Kaine's announcement video made no mention of Obama and instead called for a campaign of "balance and civility," which he said "is sadly disappearing from Washington."
"Washington can learn a few things from Virginia," he said.
Republicans, however, came out swinging hard within moments of Kaine's announcement.
"Over the last several years, Tim Kaine has been the most vocal cheerleader in Washington for the reckless fiscal policies and massive expansion of government that have been the hallmark of the Obama Administration," Brian Walsh, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a statement. "Republicans welcome the clear contrast that his candidacy presents and the choice before Virginians next year."
The frontrunner for the GOP nomination is George Allen, who held the seat for one term before losing to Webb in a bitter 2006 campaign. He, like Kaine, is also a former governor, as is the state's other senator, Democrat Mark Warner.