Saying “big ideas change the world,” Ohio Gov. John Kasich declared his candidacy for the Republican nomination Tuesday.
Kasich, 63, launched his campaign at Ohio State University before a crowd of 2,000. The event marked the entry of a strong-willed and sometimes abrasive governor into a nomination race that now has 16 notable Republicans.
“I am here to ask you for your prayers, for your support, for your efforts because I have decided to run for president,” Kasich said in a scattered 43-minute speech packed with family anecdotes, historical references and calls for national renewal.
A veteran congressman as well as governor, Kasich told voters he is the only GOP candidate with experience in three broad areas of political leadership — the federal budget, national security and state government. He also spent nearly a decade at the Lehman Brothers financial services firm.
“I have the experience and the testing,” he said, “the testing which shapes you and prepares you for the most important job in the world, and I believe I know how to work and help restore this great United States.”
As budget chairman in the House, he became an architect of a deal in 1997 that balanced the federal budget.
Now in his second term in swing-state Ohio, he’s helped erase a budget deficit projected at nearly $8 billion when he entered office, boost Ohio’s rainy-day fund to a historic high and seen private-sector employment rebound to its pre-recession level.
Kasich worked toward his goals with budget cutting, privatization of parts of Ohio’s government and other, often business-style innovations. “We didn’t really have to slash things,” Kasich said of the budget squeeze. “We just had to use a 21st century formula.”
Unions, which turned back an effort by Kasich and fellow Republicans to limit public workers’ collective bargaining rights, say Kasich’s successes have come at a cost to local governments and schools, and say new Ohio jobs lack the pay and benefits of the ones they replaced.
As a marching band kept up a spritely cadence before Kasich spoke, scores of demonstrators gathered across the street to protest his cuts to the budget and to school districts specifically, as well as his closing of centers for people with development disabilities.
“Unless you are part of the 1 percent, Kasich is not your friend,” said Melissa Svigelj, 42, an educator from suburban Cleveland.
Among his supporters, Margo Bishop, 77, of Gahanna, Ohio, said she values his candor: “I think he’s speaking out, and even if I don’t agree all the time, … at least he’s saying something.”
Kasich embraces conservative ideals but bucks his party on occasion and disdains the Republican sport of bashing Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. Visiting the early voting state of New Hampshire on Tuesday following his announcement, Kasich said his political career has taught him that the two parties must work together to get things done.
“I realized that purpose was more important than party,” Kasich said. “In my political career my whole vision is: How do we make changes and improve things for the people that we serve?”
His entry nearly rounds out an unusually diverse Republican lineup with two Hispanics, an African-American, one woman and several younger candidates alongside older white men. So many are running that it’s unclear Kasich will qualify for the GOP’s first debate in his home state in just two weeks, when only the top 10 candidates in national polling will be on stage.
Kasich’s post-announcement trip to New Hampshire runs through Thursday, and he’ll take questions from voters at five town hall-style events.
Tuesday evening, Kasich said his record shows he knows how to make change rather than just talk about it.
“I know how it works, I know how you turn the dials,” he said. “I know how you get in there and build a team of people who can change this country.”
Kasich’s allies at the political organization New Day for America reported raising $11.5 million on his behalf before his entry into the race.
Associated Press writer Kathleen Ronayne in Nashua, N.H., contributed.
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