COLUMBUS, Ohio — Saying “big ideas change the world,” Ohio Gov. John Kasich declared his candidacy for the Republican nomination Tuesday and set about trying to distinguish himself in a bustling contest with other high achievers.
Kasich, 63, launched his campaign at Ohio State University before a crowd of 2,000 at an event marking the entry of a strong-willed and sometimes abrasive governor in a nomination race now with 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efforts because I have decided to run for president,” Kasich said in a scattered speech packed with family anecdotes, historical references and a pitch for his well-rounded resume.
A veteran congressman as well as governor, Kasich is telling voters he is the only GOP candidate with experience in three broad areas of political leadership — the federal budget, national security and state government. As well, he spent nearly a decade at Lehman Brothers.
“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 post-recession level.
This, through budget cutting, privatization of parts of Ohio’s government and other, often business-style innovations.
Unions that 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 that new Ohio jobs lack the pay and benefits of the ones they replaced. They plan a protest outside Tuesday’s launch.
Kasich embraces conservative ideals but bucks his party on occasion and disdains the Republican sport of bashing Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton.
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.
In recent months, he’s made trips to New Hampshire, South Carolina, Iowa, New York and Michigan, and will be returning to early voting states. His allies at the political organization New Day for America reported raising $11.5 million on Kasich’s behalf before his entry into the race.