With Race Down to the Wire, Kasich Stays Positive

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Gov. John Kasich said he would continue with his positive message as he seeks the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, even as he took aim at front-runner Donald Trump.

“I’m not going to take the low road to the highest office in the land,” Kasich told supporters at Brilex Industries Inc. this morning, the day before the Ohio Primary — a win-or-go-home contest for the governor.

Kasich’s campaign bus drove into the Brilex Industries building at 10:35 a.m., 35 minutes after the scheduled start. He began speaking at 10:43 a.m. after Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance and introductory remarks by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

Portman endorsed Kasich in January and while Tressel was announced as a special guest for the campaign stop, he didn’t provide an explicit endorsement. That came later in the day, when Kasich’s campaign issued a statement announcing that Tressel and fellow Ohio State University football coaches John Cooper, Earle Bruce and Luke Fickel were backing the governor.

“My job is simply this: to welcome these two fine folks to our Valley. We’re fortunate that we have people with tremendous experience, but most especially who care deeply about every single person in our Valley and in our state and in our country,” he said in his just over a minute on stage, most of which he spent praising Kasich and Portman.

Kasich spoke about 20 minutes before fielding questions from the audience another 20 minutes or so before heading to his next stop in North Canton.

In his remarks, Kasich focused on his record in as governor and his time in Congress, but also was critical of Trump, without mentioning him by name, and the atmosphere he has created at his rallies, which erupted in violence last Friday night.

“Leadership is not dividing people. Leadership is not encouraging a toxic environment,” the governor of Ohio said. “This country is about us coming together. It’s not about us tearing each other down or having fistfights at a campaign rally.”

Kasich told his audience at the Youngstown plant that only three things matter in life to a politician – jobs, jobs and jobs – and called small business the engine of Ohio.

“That’s why we eliminated the income tax for small businesses,” he said. “We cannot put silly regulations or excessive regulations on small businesses because if we crush them you know who we’re hurting? Us,” he added.

In addition, he cited his time in Washington, when he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1990s and helped to craft a balanced budget for the first time since Neil Armstrong – another Ohioan – walked on the moon.

“When we finally got it balanced, the economy was growing like crazy in America,” Kasich said.

“You mark my words, Hillary Clinton will take credit for what was happening and talk about the Clinton economy” – her husband, Bill Clinton, was president at the time – “They had a good economy because the Republicans fought to balance the budget and cut taxes,” Kasich said.

Among the governor’s first talking points of the day was education reform and shifting control back to the states and away from Washington. He mentioned the Youngstown City School district, saying the system is in desperate need of help.

“We cannot leave our kids in an environment where they’re not learning and not preparing for college. We are uniting ourselves here to make sure we get that done,” he said. “We have a group here committed to fixing Youngstown schools. These schools must be fixed. It’ll take some major effort to get it done.”

Kasich took four questions from the crowd after speaking, including one from Kathy Downing, whose son works at the Youngstown Developmental Center, which is slated to be closed by July 1, 2017. She asked why the center was being closed when residents still need the services provided and when some 100 people are employed there.

“There are people there who will be moved away from their families. My son is looking for another job. He has three student loans to pay,” she said. “I want your reassurance that you will take care of these people.”

He responded by noting that the largest increase in the state budget was for those with disabilities and that what his goal is to “get people off the institutions and into the community so they have a place to live for the rest of their lives. Keeping them institutionalized isn’t the right way to behave.

“Our whole approach is designed to get people into a setting where they’re comfortable,” Kasich said, acknowledging that it may be disruptive to those in the system, but eventually everyone will be comfortable.

Among questions and comments about education in the state, the governor was also asked if he’d implement clean energy policies and the impact they’d have on the Mahoning Valley. Late last year, President Obama and other world leaders reached an agreement to establish a framework that addresses global climate change.

“Youngstown has a history of manufacturing. If you want to bring more jobs back to the Mahoning Valley in things like manufacturing, you better have the cheapest energy you can have. [These alternative energies] cost a lot more than our traditional energy sources,” he said.

There is reason to be concerned about the climate, he continued, explaining that Ohio promotes solar, wind and natural gas development. Right now, businesses in the state would have to buy energy at a higher cost through those avenues, leading to potential job loss.

“We can have a healthy environment while having a strong job situation,” he said. “We don’t want to give up on traditional sources of energy. We want to continue to dig coal, but we have to clean it before we burn it, which we do in our state.”

Afterward, it seemed that many in the crowd – which was a broad swath of all ages as a few groups of college and high school students lined the edge of the floor – were at the very least interested in what Kasich had to say if they weren’t supporters.

“I’m younger, so this impacts me,” said Kimberly Campbell. “I don’t feel there’s great options either way so it was interesting to see his point of view.”

Campbell didn’t vote in the last election she said, but this year’s campaigns have gotten her involved in the political process.

“This has made me want to get out there and get an opinion. I know my decision, but it’s nice to hear other opinions,” she said.

Jack Dugan, former president of the McDonald Board of Education, said he supports Kasich primarily because of his views on education.

“I feel that he’s certainly on the right track in giving control back to local school boards,” he said. “Communities can educate children better than the federal government.”

With several high school students in attendance, Dugan noted that Kasich’s message on learning extends to all age groups. That, in turn, gets people interested in the governor, where they can learn more about him and what sets him apart from other candidates.

“If you’re young, you’re concerned about your education. If you’re older, you’re concerned about the grandkids’ education,” Dugan said. “He’s a common sense individual. He’s one of us. He struggled like the rest of us struggled. He looks in our eyes and sees our challenges.”

Among the local representatives at the town hall meeting was Mahoning County Republican Chairman Mark Munroe, who sported two large, white buttons with “Kasich” in bold red letters.

“You can guess who I’m supporting,” he said with a laugh. “When you hear the governor talk, you get the impression that he is the genuine article. You hear about his experience and see that he’s a leader with a vision for the country with the temperament and heart. When you see that rolled into one, you see he’s the best candidate.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.