Metro

Inside the fund-raiser for top VP prospect Tim Kaine

Tim Kaine walked through the Senate basement in June.
Zach Gibson/The New York Times
Tim Kaine walked through the Senate basement in June.

US Senator Tim Kaine, the leading contender to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate, appeared at a Boston fund-raiser on Friday, avoiding reporters and denying any new knowledge of the selection process to join the presumptive Democratic nominee on the ticket.

At the lunchtime event at the University of Massachusetts Club on Beacon Street, Kaine told both the crowd and individuals privately that he had no idea whether he would be Clinton’s pick.

“He said, ‘I can look you honestly in the eye and say I don’t know,’” said Tom Lesser, a lawyer from Northampton, who attended the event.

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Clinton is expected to announce her running mate on Friday, according to NBC news, and the two Democrats will make their first joint appearance Saturday in Miami.

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Kaine is also expected to visit Rhode Island Friday night, according to the Providence Journal. He is scheduled to continue his fund-raising swing Saturday in Nantucket but he could cancel if selected to join the ticket.

The other leading candidates to be Clinton’s running mate are US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and US Senator Cory Booker.

Fund-raiser attendees said Kaine gave a wide-ranging speech, focusing on his own past and what he called an “existential” moment in American politics. Kaine discussed being thankful for the experience of being vetted eight years ago to be President Obama's running mate, so he knew what to expect during the process this time around.

The first-term senator and former governor said the presidential campaign would come down to four battleground states: Florida, Colorado, Ohio, and his home state of Virginia. Kaine also answered questions from guests at the event, which lasted around an hour.

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The approximately 125 guests included a mix of local lawmakers, academics, consultants, and lawyers who dined on a buffet of sandwiches, chips and cookies. UMass President Marty Meehan spoke first, followed by former US representative Chet Atkins, who introduced Kaine.

State House speaker Robert A. DeLeo, former state treasurer Steve Grossman, state Senator Joseph Boncore, state Senator Sal DiDomenico, state Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, state Representative Kevin Honan and former US ambassador to Spain Alan Solomont attended the event, according to sources in the room.

DeLeo said Kaine talked about the “dichotomy between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and then he got into a situation talking about why she would be an excellent president, which I thought he did a great job.”

Additionally, DeLeo said he “gave an indication he is in play” for the vice presidency.

When asked if he hoped Kaine would be chosen as running mate, DeLeo said “that is obviously not my decision, but I think he would be a very good pick.”

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No matter Kaine’s role in Clinton’s campaign, he promised to be “passionately out there,” Grossman said.

“People were very impressed,” Lesser said. “The people I talked to who didn’t really know him were really impressed by how authentic and genuine he is.”

Consultant Steve Kerrigan said Kaine’s speech was well-received.

“Tim’s a good guy,” he said.

The Associated Press and Globe reporter Jim O’Sullivan contributed to this report. Meg Bernhard can be reached at meg.bernhard@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @meg_bernhard.