John Kasich has received little media coverage in the 2016 presidential race. Amidst constant mudslinging and yelling at the Republican debates, it has been difficult for the 63-year-old Governor of Ohio to make an impression. Consequently, the general public seems to know very little about Kasich and where he stands on the issues.
It is worth noting, first, that Kasich has had no shortage of political experience in his career. At just 26 years old, he defeated Democratic incumbent Robert O’Shaughnessy to secure a seat in the Ohio State Senate. Immediately after serving four years as a state senator, Kasich ran for Congress. He defeated Democratic incumbent Bob Shamansky and went on to serve 18 years in the House. Nine years later in May of 2010, Kasich became the 69th Governor of Ohio. He was reelected in November of 2014.
When it comes to the issues, Kasich is often portrayed as a moderate Republican. Based on my research, however, that label is largely inaccurate. In the following paragraphs, I provide a brief overview of where he stands on major issues of the 2016 race and on his often-cited record in fixing Ohio’s economy.
Kasich has maintained a very conservative stance on gun rights. As Governor, he has signed legislation making it easier to obtain a concealed carry permit, purchase weapons, and transport ammunition. These measures earned him an endorsement from the NRA in his 2014 bid for re-election. He also opposes President Obama’s executive orders on gun control, arguing that they are in violation of the second amendment.
Kasich’s stances on LGBT rights, particularly in regards to gay marriage, are perhaps the biggest reason he has been labeled a moderate. While he personally believes in “traditional marriage,” he would not support an amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges–which defends same-sex marriage as a fundamental right–while in office. He also signed an executive order as governor that forbids employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.
Kasich has acknowledged that climate change is a problem and touted his success as governor in reducing industrial pollution. In an interview with the Financial Times last year, however, Kasich stated that he would not “want to create any dramatic economic change of policy” in addressing climate change because he is “still not sure of all the causes and of all the science” behind it. Furthermore, he does not believe that the Environmental Protection Agency should regulate carbon emissions.
Kasich has taken a somewhat ambiguous stance on marijuana legalization. In a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt last year, Kasich said that he was “totally opposed” to legalizing recreational marijuana under any circumstance. When asked if, as president, he would overturn state laws legalizing the drug, however, he characterized the problem as a states’ rights issue and gave no definitive answer as to whether he would intervene with existing laws in Colorado and Washington.
Kasich has taken a moderate stance on government surveillance, believing it is absolutely vital that the government is able to access critical information but that it should only do so with a warrant. He has also spoken out against the government forcing companies to provide a backdoor to encrypted devices, a stance that is particularly relevant in light of the current FBI-Apple encryption dispute.
Kasich supports the use of drone strikes in the middle east. If elected president, he plans to send ground troops to combat ISIS and provide support for Kurdish troops. He has also proposed a more aggressive stance against Russia for its territorial claims in Ukraine and China for its claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea. He is not opposed to expanding the US military budget.
Kasich maintains a fairly moderate stance on illegal immigration. On the one hand, he believes that the Fourteenth Amendment should be repealed, arguing that he does not want to “reward illegal immigration” by giving citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants. On the other, he says that his stance on the issue has “evolved” over his years in office and he has since supported an easier path to citizenship for undocumented families. He believes that Trump’s plan to deport 11 million people is “ludicrous” and entirely unfeasible.
Kasich has described himself as a “firm abortion opponent” and his record as governor attests to that. He has signed 16 anti-abortion measures into law in his past five years as governor, including legislation forcing women seeking an abortion to first receive an ultrasound. He recently signed a bill prohibiting Ohio from funding any organization that performs abortions, a controversial measure that ultimately defunded Planned Parenthood in the state.
John Kasich often touts his impressive economic record as Governor, which includes balancing Ohio’s budget by eliminating an $8 million budget shortfall. He accomplished this while expanding Medicaid coverage in his state to over 200,000 uninsured workers and increasing funding for low-income school districts. While his support for Medicaid expansion angered many Republicans, Kasich clarified that he rejects other proposals of the Affordable Care Act. If elected president, Kasich plans to add a “Balanced Budget Amendment” to the Constitution.
One glaring weakness in Kasich’s economic record is his involvement with investment banking after serving in Congress. Kasich worked eight years at the investment bank Lehman Brothers as a managing director until its collapse in 2008. Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy filing is often cited as one of the key events leading to the 2008 financial crisis. Adding insult to the injury, Kasich even received a bonus of over $400,000 in 2008 just before the bank’s collapse.
Interestingly, however, Kasich’s Wall Street ties have remained mostly out of the public eye this election. Last month, Trump accused Kasich of having “helped Wall Street predator Lehman Brothers destroy the world economy,” but this claim has since been entirely debunked. Kasich had little involvement with the actual investment banking when he worked at the firm, instead serving a managerial role given his congressional connections. Still, any involvement with Lehman Brothers, however limited, does not reflect well on Kasich.
With Rubio out of the presidential race, Kasich could become relevant to Republicans in the coming months. While he is more conservative on most social issues than people realize, he has the experience and reputation necessary to connect with everyday voters (something Trump and Cruz arguably lack). His ties to Wall Street and, indirectly, the 2008 Financial Crisis have not been given serious attention yet, largely because many do not consider him a serious candidate. Should they resurface, however, they could spell the end of Kasich’s campaign.