Ohio Governor and Republican presidential candidate John Kasich held a town hall meeting Thursday, April 28 at The Castaway in Northwest Portland.
A few hundred people were in attendance, including Rep. John Davis (R-Wilsonville), some Salem lobbyists and an entire line of television news crews.
Kasich arrived to a standing ovation, flanked by Lake Oswego City Councilor and Republican state treasurer candidate Jeff Gudman.
Gudman took to the microphone and told the audience that the only way for Republicans to win the White House in November is to nominate Kasich. He praised Kasich’s “outstanding service” to Ohio and his “incorruptible character.”
Introduction Kasich to the crowd was Ron Saxton, who ran as the Republican nominee for Oregon governor in 2006. Saxton echoed Gudman’s prior remarks about Kasich’s electability, citing the last 16 polls showing the Ohio governor beating Democrat Hillary Clinton in the general election.
Kasich began his remarks by stating that he started his bid for the presidency with no name recognition and is being outspent 50-1, but still placed second in four of the last primaries.
His overall message was a sharp contrast to that of Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, and probably very deliberately so.
We have problems and they’re easy to fix, Kasich said, but anger, division and politics are getting in the way of solving them.
Kasich described how he was 30 years old when first elected to Congress. His stint on the Defense Committee saw the military rebuilt, the Berlin Wall fall and Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein pushed out of Kuwait, and Kasich said those successes were due in part to statesmanship.
“We didn’t function much as partisans,” he said. “That was when we could figure out how to work together.”
In that time, Congress balanced the budget for the first time “since man walked on the moon,” Kasich said. “They haven’t done it since I left.”
Since becoming governor of Ohio, Kasich said that state went from having a 20 percent deficit in its operating budget to a $2 billion surplus and has gained 420,000 jobs.
“We’ve left no one behind,” he said, adding that the mentally ill, addicted and developmentally disabled are all now being helped.
Kasich recalled how there were initially 17 Republicans seeking the presidency, including several other governors. He said he would go to debates and not get called on and was largely ignored until about eight weeks ago.
“And I’m still standing,” he said.
In his remarks, Kasich said he wanted to be someone who can talk about the way things can be. He characterized his campaign as being about lifting people up, not name calling or bullying them, an indirect reference to many of the controversies that have followed the Trump campaign.
An audience member asked Kasich about Trump during the question and answer portion of the meeting. Kasich predicted that if Trump didn’t have the nomination won by July’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, that the developer and reality television star would be unlikely to end up with it.
Kasich cited Trump’s high negative ratings among married women and 15 polls showing him losing to Hillary and getting “crushed” in the Electoral College. He added that Trump’s nomination could result in Republicans losing the U.S. Senate and the Supreme Court.
“I’m not taking the low road to the White House,” Kasich said.