Kaine's crime-busting past may hurt Clinton's outreach to blacks

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Why Clinton chose Kaine as her running mate

RICHMOND, Va., July 22 (Reuters) - Democrat Hillary Clinton's pick of Tim Kaine as her vice presidential running mate could hamper her efforts to reach out to African-American voters because of Kaine's past embrace of crime-fighting strategies that have driven up the U.S. prison population and are unpopular in the black community.

The now-defunct Project Exile that Kaine backed was so unusual it was championed by Republicans and Democrats alike and by both the top U.S. gun lobby group and gun-control advocates. But the federal program launched in 1997 in Richmond, Virginia, was also criticized at the time as a racially biased initiative that condemned young black men to lengthy prison terms.

Clinton has come under fire herself from black activists for her past support for tough-on-crime policies of the 1990s now blamed for a surge in U.S. prison population and heightened tensions between law enforcement and black communities.

Senator Tim Kaine through his career:

Senator Tim Kaine through his career
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Senator Tim Kaine through his career
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) react during a campaign rally at Ernst Community Cultural Center in Annandale, Virginia, U.S., July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
DATE:10/06/2001 SLUG:ME/KAINE CREDIT:TRACY A WOODWARD/TWP Candidate for VA Lt Gov. Tim Kaine at Herndon, VA., Homecoming Parade. Along parade route through the town of Herndon; Kaine (center of photo-blue shirt and jacket) shakes hands with Herndon High School student- Nick Palatiello (cq) 18 yrs old. The kids are on one of the Herndon High School floats. Original Filename: MEKAINE2.jpg ORG XMIT: M0110071405302067 (Photo by Tracy A. Woodward/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
SLUG: ME/RICHMOND The second day of the Virginia general assembly. Pictured, Lt. Governor Tim Kaine holds a press conference in the statehouse to introduce his legislative staffers and answer questions from the press. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
SLUG: ME/INAUG DATE: 01/14/2006 CREDIT: Bill O'Leary Governor Tim Kaine is inaugurated at the colonial statehouse in Williamsburg, VA. Pictured, the Governor elect gives a thumbs up signal to the crowd during a long ovation upon his arrival. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine laughs at a remark by President George W. Bush about his wife's needle work while visiting the Jamestown Settlement in Jamestown, Virginia, Sunday, May 13, 2007. (Photo by Dave Bowman/Newport News Daily Press/MCT via Getty Images)
CHESTER, VA - AUGUST 21: Presumptive Democratic Presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) (R) discusses economy with people as Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (L) looks on during a campaign stop at John Tyler Community College August 21, 2008 in Chester, Virginia. The media have been reported that Obama will announce who is his running mate in Springfield, Illinois on Saturday. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
DENVER - AUGUST 28: Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine walks off stage on day four of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) at Invesco Field at Mile High August 28, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) is the first African-American to be officially nominated as a candidate for U.S. president by a major party. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 08: Virginia Governor Tim Kaine and President elect Barack Obama speak at a news conference at the Democratic National Committee headquarters to announce Kaine as the new chair of the DNC on January 8, 2009. (Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call/Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA - NOVEMBER 04: Virginia Gov. and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine answers questions during a press conference at the State Capitol complex November 4, 2009 in Richmond, Virginia. Kaine discussed the results of yesterday's election results during the press conference. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 30: DNC Chairman Tim Kaine (L) participates in a conference call with Rev. Regena Thomas, Director of Faith and Constituency Outreach in the Chairman's office on September 30, 2010. This was a 5:00 pm Conference call with the National Baptist Convention Leadership. (Photo by Tracy A Woodward/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
VIRGINIA BEACH, VA, JULY 13: Former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine plays to the crowd during a campaign stop with President Barack Obama at Green Run High School in Virginia Beach, Virginia, on Friday, July 13, 2012. (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MCLEAN, VA - SEPTEMBER 20: Tim Kaine in encircled by media in the media room of the Capitol One Conference Center following his U.S. Senatorial debate against George Allen on Thursday, September 20, 2012, in McLean, VA. The former Virginia governor Kaine is in a heated run against Allen, another former Virginia governor, for the US Senate seat being vacated by Senator Jim Webb. In addition to being a former Virginia governor, Kaine, a Democrat , is a former mayor of Richmond and a Virginia Lt. governor. Kaine's wife, Holton, has been active in the campaign, making appearances around the state on her husband's behalf. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
FAIRFAX, VA - SEPTEMBER 25: U.S. Senate Democratic candidate and former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine answers reporters' questions during a news conference at the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Station 40 September 25, 2012 in Fairfax, Virginia. The International Association of Fire Fighters union announced its endorsement of Kaine in his race against another former Virginia governor and former U.S. Senator George Allen (R-VA). (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - November 6 : Former Governor of Virginia, Tim Kanie makes his acceptance speech after winning the Virginia Senate seat from Former Governor George Allen at Kaine's election night party at the Richmond Marriott on November 6, 2012. (Photo By Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19: (L-R) Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, Anne Holton, and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) attend the Inaugural Youth Ball hosted by OurTime.org at Donald W. Reynolds Center on January 19, 2013 in Washington, United States. (Photo by Michael Kovac/FilmMagic)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 31: Junior Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) looks up to think for a moment during a staff meeting in his office on Capitol Hill Wednesday, July 31, 2013. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
US Senator Tim Kaine,D-Virginia, listens to witnesses June 5, 2014 during hearings held by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee On Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee is hearing testimony on 'Development in Ukraine.' AFP PHOTO / Karen BEIER (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 9: Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., speaks with a reporter as he arrives for the Senate Democrats' policy lunch in the Capitol on Tuesday, June 9, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) appears in pre taped interview on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Friday June 24, 2016. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
US Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and US Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, wave during a campaign rally at Ernst Community Cultural Center in Annandale, Virginia, on July 14, 2016. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

One of her fundraisers got disrupted earlier this year by activists who asked her to "apologize for mass incarceration."

Clinton named Kaine as her running mate late on Friday, making what is considered a safe choice for her battle against Republican presidential rival Donald Trump.

As Richmond mayor from 1998 to 2001, Kaine, 58, was a vocal supporter of Project Exile, crediting it with reducing the city's murder rate.

Its goal was to literally live up to its name by making illegal gun possession a federal, not a state, crime, which allowed prosecutors to send convicted felons, most of them black, to a distant federal penitentiary for at least five years.

Sam Sinyangwe, co-founder of Campaign Zero, a group focused on curtailing police violence, said Kaine's choice could exacerbate Clinton's problems rallying support of African-Americans, particularly younger people.

"To select somebody like (Kaine) is not a sign of good leadership potential in a president," Sinyangwe said.

Nicole Lee, a civil-rights lawyer and activist in Washington, D.C. who is African-American, also expressed concern.

"Project Exile broke black families," she said. "This is not a benign thing to be for. These measures were not used against white kids in the suburbs with guns, they were used against black kids in the cities."

Social media reactions of Democratic VP pick Tim Kaine:

Social Reactions of Democratic VP pick Tim Kaine
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Social Reactions of Democratic VP pick Tim Kaine
Just got off the phone with Hillary. I’m honored to be her running mate. Can’t wait to hit the trail tomorrow in Miami!
.@TimKaine has a big heart and showed it as a civil rights lawyer, a teacher, a mayor, a governor, and a senator. https://t.co/dT4qZ8hwL8
Shout out to a fellow @TheDemocrats Chair today — working families have a champion in @timkaine. Can't wait for more of them to meet you.
Great to see @HillaryClinton has chosen Sen. @TimKaine to be her running mate, such a strong ticket to lead us to victory this fall!
Terrific choice. Now, let's go! https://t.co/1vu10vuMmZ
Trying to count the ways I hate @timkaine. Drawing a blank. Congrats to a good man and a good friend.


To defeat Trump in the Nov. 8 presidential election, Clinton needs high turnout among blacks and other minority voters to offset Trump's popularity among white voters.

During the 1990s, she supported tough-on-crime initiatives backed by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, but now vows to "end the era of mass incarceration."

Her campaign is trying to walk a political tightrope after the killings of two black men by police and the shooting deaths of police officers in Texas and Louisiana. She has offered support for the Black Lives Matter movement, while also strongly condemning the killings of police officers.

Officials who were in Richmond during Kaine's mayoral tenure believe the community, ravaged by the crack-cocaine epidemic and an escalating murder rate, had to take dramatic steps. Amy Dudley, a spokeswoman in Kaine's Senate office, said the senator stood by the program, believing that it reduced gun violence.

Jerry Oliver, the police chief at the time and an African-American, said the program focused on black communities out of necessity. "We had to be where the problems were," he said.

41 powerful photos of Hillary Clinton's storied career:

41 powerful photos of Hillary Clinton's storied career
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41 powerful photos of Hillary Clinton's storied career

Hillary Clinton, First Lady of the United States, throws a thumbs-up during a presidential election victory celebration in 1992. Her husband might be doing the same for her, 24 years later.

(Photo by Win McNamee / Reuters)

Here she is talking to kids at the Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, October 21, 1993.

(Photo by Sue Ogrocki / Reuters)

As First Lady, she did a lot of traveling, like to Bosnia in 1996 to meet US soldiers.

(Photo by Win McNamee / Reuters)

In 1997 she visited Goree Island, Senegal, with her daughter Chelsea. Here they are peering out from the Door of No Return, a former slave trading center, as a soldier stands guard.

(Photo by Win McNamee / Reuters)

Nelson Mandela showed Clinton and Chelsea the cell in which he was held for 27 years at the Robben's Island prison off the coast of Cape Town, March 20, 1997.

(Photo by Win McNamee / Reuters)

Here she is with Bill in the Oval Office, chatting with a bunch of kids awaiting adoption.

(Photo via Reuters)

Sporting similar power suits and haircuts, Hillary met with Diana, Princess of Wales, at the White House in 1997.

(Photo via Reuters)

No one can claim that she doesn't get her hands dirty. Here's Clinton building a home as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity in Pikeville, Kentucky, in 1997.

(Photo via Reuters)

She's always been an advocate for affordable health care as well as women's rights. In 1998, Clinton gave a speech at Beijing Medical University about improving health care in China, particularly folic acid deficiencies in pregnant mothers.

(Photo by Natalie Behring / Reuters)

Like any presidential nominee, she's good with babies. She found this one during a visit to a children's home in the Dominican Republic in 1998.

(Photo via Reuters)

Hillary kneels before the grave of US Private Celia Goldberg, who was killed in Tunisia during World War II, at the North Africa American Cemetery, outside Tunis, in 1999.

(Photo via Reuters)

In 2000, she announced her candidacy for New York's Senate seat.

(Photo via Reuters)

Later that year, Clinton held an event at the White House on preventing potential harm to children from defective products.

(Photo via Reuters)

She won that New York Senate seat on November 7, 2000. Definitely not a "low energy" candidate, based on this picture.

(Photo via Reuters)

Days after 9/11, she took a tour of the World Trade Center disaster site.

(Photo via Reuters)

Here Clinton is giving kids from Manhattan's Colombia Grammar and Prep school a tour of her office on Capitol Hill in 2003.

(Photo by Reuters)

She wrote a book titled "Living History."

(Photo by Chip East / Reuters)

In 2003, all Clinton could do was smirk on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" as Leno shows her a tabloid newspaper article about her hooking up with an alien.

(Photo via Reuters)

A power woman power lunches with US troops in Bagram Airbase, north of Kabul, in 2003.

(Photo via Reuters)

Here she's listening to Defense Secretary nominee Robert Gates testify before the US Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in 2006.

(Photo by Jim Young / Reuters)

Hillary and Bill pay their respects to the late former President Gerald Ford in 2007.

(Photo by Jim Young / Reuters)

This is her first presidential campaign's website in 2007. It's pretty low-tech.

(Image via Reuters)

Back in 2007, she was running against Obama for the Democratic Presidential nomination.

(Photo by Lisa Hornak / Reuters)

Their body language says more than a thousand words.

(Photo by Steve Marcus / Reuters)

She spent most of 2008 on the campaign trail.

(Photo by Chris Keane / Reuters)

She's nothing if not ecstatic.

(Photo by Bradley Bower / Reuters)

It was a close race, but she had to endorse presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama at the National Building Museum in Washington, June 7, 2008.

(Photo by Jason Reed / Reuters)

A gracious loser, she waved to delegates at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, August 26, 2008.

(Photo by Eric Thayer / Reuters)

Despite losing the nomination, her and Obama found that they had a lot in common. He later made her Secretary of State.

(Photo by Jim Young / Reuters)

Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama tour the Sultan Hassan Mosque in Cairo in 2009.

(Photo by Larry Downing / Reuters)

A North Korean soldier looks in through the window as Hillary tours the Demilitarized Zone in Panmunjom, South Korea, in 2010.

(Photo by Cherie Cullen/Defense Department photo via Reuters)

This is the badass pic that launched a thousand memes. Hillary looks cool as a cucumber checking her phone on a military C-17 plane to Libya in 2011.

(Photo by Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

Here she is in the Situation Room with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with members of the national security team, in 2011. They just received news on the mission against Osama bin Laden.

(Photo by White House/Pete Souza via Reuters)

They say the second time's a charm: here is Clinton delivering her "official launch speech" at a campaign kick off rally on Roosevelt Island in New York City, June 13, 2015.

(Photo by Lucas Jackson / Reuters)

Peek-a-boo: Hillary sizes up her audience at a campaign launch party at Carter Hill Orchard in Concord, New Hampshire, on June 15, 2015.

(Photo by Brian Snyder / Reuters)

Hillary takes the stage to speak during the Scott County Democratic Party's Red, White and Blue Dinner at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport, Iowa, January 23, 2016.

(Photo by Scott Morgan / Reuters)

Bill is thrilled as his wife speaks at a campaign stop in Davenport, Iowa, in January 2016.

(Photo by Brian Snyder / Reuters)

A woman of the people, she hugged Brana Marancic, an employee of Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, in February 2016. They appear to be in a storage closet.

(Photo by Jim Young / Reuters)

It was a fierce race between Clinton and Bernie Sanders

(Photo by Mike Segar / Reuters)

Here she is speaking to supporters at her New York presidential primary night rally in Manhattan, April 19, 2016.

(Photo by Mike Segar / Reuters)

She did it! Hillary is officially the Democratic presidential nominee, and the first woman in the 240-year history of the US to lead a major party's presidential ticket.

(Photo by Carlos Barria / Reuters)


The National Rifle Association, the nation's biggest gun lobby, was an early proponent of Project Exile as was the gun-control advocacy group Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

As Richmond's first white mayor in more than a decade, Kaine was widely credited for helping to bridge racial divisions in the city, but Project Exile drew fire from defense lawyers and community advocates who argued that the program unfairly targeted African-Americans.

Kevin Ring, vice president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a Washington advocacy group lobbying against federal sentencing minimums, said that Kaine, like Clinton, will have to demonstrate to black voters that he has "evolved" on the issue.

"There are some that will be bothered. There will be questions," Ring said.

Kaine supports legislation that would roll back some mandatory minimum federal sentences and give judges more discretion, although his office says he still supports firm sentences for illegal gun possession. Kaine's backing of Project Exile also makes him odd bedfellows with Trump, who has made law and order a central theme of his candidacy. Trump has called for the program's revival and his campaign website said it was "tremendous." (Additional reporting by Alana Wise and Emily Flitter; Editing by Caren Bohan and Tomasz Janowski)

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