Republican presidential candidate John Kasich talked jobs, taxes, health care and more Thursday when he breezed through Indian Land two days before the state GOP primary.
The Ohio governor, who has been polling in the middle of the GOP pack in recent surveys, spoke to about 200 people and answered questions in an hourlong town hall-style stop at the Sun City Carolina Lakes retirement community.
Kasich, who spoke at an outdoor pavilion on a chilly evening on his way to a town hall meeting in Columbia, said voters are worried about their jobs, Social Security and what kind of country they are leaving for their grandchildren.
“These are not that hard to fix,” said Kasich, a former U.S. representative from the Buckeye State. “But we’ve got to work together as Americans, not as Republicans and Democrats, to get them done.”
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He attempted to distance himself from the Republican establishment, telling the crowd about his roots in the industrial town of McKees Rocks, Pa., where he was the son of a mail carrier and the grandson of a coal miner who died of black lung disesase.
“You don’t come from McKees Rocks and be in the establishment,” Kasich said.
He said of his political career that “leaders walk a lonely road,” and “my only purpose in this whole business of politics is to give everybody a chance to rise.”
When Kasich asked for questions, one spectator shouted: “Gov. Kasich, why do you hate women’s health?” The question was accompanied by a loud chorus of boos from some of the spectators.
Kasich acknowleded the protesters and told them he cares about women’s health and has made strides to improve infant mortality. He said he is not a supporter of Planned Parenthood.
Kasich, who came in a distant second in last week’s New Hampshire primary, behind Donald Trump, and was eighth in the Iowa caucuses, said a priority is to “get this economy moving.”
He criticized government overregulation, saying, “if we kill small businesses, we kill jobs for families.” If elected, he said he plans to impose a one-year freeze on new business regulations, except those related to health and safety.
He wants to cut taxes, saying U.S. corporate taxes “are some of the highest in the world. Then, they will invest in the tools people need to be more productive.”
He also wants to simplify the individual tax code.
Kasich said he wants to take a host of issues including job training, education, transportation and welfare and send responsibility for them back to the states for greater local control.
He answered questions about the budget deficit, pledging to balance the federal budget in eight years by restraining government, reforming entitlement programs and spurring growth.
“What it’s going to take is for people to realize that if you are going to control the spending, people are going to have work,” said Kasich, who said he supports a constitutional amendment that would require a balanced budget.
On foreign policy, he called the Iranian nuclear agreement “a bad deal,” and said the U.S. cannot allow any violations and should impose swift sanctions if that happens. He called for an international coalition to defeat ISIS.
Kasich also said Obamacare doesn’t address the problem of skyrocketing health care costs. Kasich called for “total transparency” in health care so people care compare provider costs, and said providers who deliver high-quality care with below-average costs should receive a financial incentive.
Before leaving, Kasich turned to a crowd of young adults sitting behind him and said, “You are the hope, you are the future. Get your education, have fun and stay away from drugs.”
Jennifer Becknell: 803-329-4077