RICHMOND, Va -- Three months ago, when it became clear RVA's Tim Kaine would be Hillary Clinton's pick on her ticket, I was among those celebrating.
"In this bizarre election cycle that seems to be a race to see who is disliked less, having a real, good-hearted human from good ole' Richmond seems to be just the ticket," I wrote in this space back then.
I've known Tim ever since he was on Richmond's city council back in the mid-90s, when RVA was a murder capital.
"He's as nice, as real, as solid as a human can get in the world of politics, while still being a heavy and steady party loyalist," I wrote in July.
Like many, I expected the cool, earthy, real and genteel Tim Kaine to show up at the big vice presidential debate with Indiana governor Mike Pence.
He'd be smart, confident and well-prepared.
He would rise above this campaign's persistent and almost comic ugliness and give the nation someone to like - maybe whip out his harmonica and blow some bluegrass for good measure.
Instead, he burst out the gate like a bull in a red tie, attacking and interrupting almost immediately - like he was Donald Trump's running mate.
Yes, we can all guess that he was prepped and coached to be the attack dog with arched eyebrow, but his snarling sounded more like sniping.
His scripted lines - "You're Donald Trump's apprentice!" had all the juice of a comedy show zinger without a laugh track.
This is Tim Kaine? We'd expect this from Trump, maybe even Pence (who was Mr. Rogers in comparison), but not Tim.
Yes, I hear all of Clinton's supporters saying Kaine did a great job driving home Trump's character flaws and ineptness while highlighting the wedge issues that have a good bit of this nation dangerously divided.
And yes, I heard that the veep debates don't matter anyway.
But this one mattered to me. Kaine is the first local politician in my time to rise this high, to potentially carry our flag to the White House.
He's the guy some of us desperately hoped would be the good-hearted grown-up, mapping out the firm, righteous path that we could understand - if not follow, as did his famous bridge-building father-in-law, former Virginia governor Linwood Holton.
Kaine's performance was far from a disaster. I'm sure his party gave him a great big Milk Bone for barking in all the right places.
But it just didn't feel real - not at all like the Tim Kaine many of us in RVA know and admire.
Ugh. This election just got a little scarier - if that's possible.