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White House Brief: Things to know about Ohio’s John Kasich

July 21, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A snapshot of things to know about Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who’s declaring his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday:



Kasich rose to prominence in 1997, when as House Budget chairman he became the chief architect of a deal that balanced the federal budget for the first time since 1969. He rode his reputation as a fiscal conservative to a White House bid in 2000, but soon dropped out. After 18 years in Congress, Kasich left Washington in 2001 for a decade-long stint as an investment banker at Lehman Brothers. He staged a political comeback in 2010, narrowly defeating a once-popular Democratic incumbent to become Ohio governor. He proceeded to cut, reshape or privatize much of Ohio government, erasing a projected $8 billion budget gap and seeing employment restored to pre-recession levels. Labor unions, armed with video of Kasich calling a police officer an idiot, prevailed in a 2011 clash, winning repeal of a law he’d signed curtailing collective bargaining rights for public employees. Kasich cites his Christian faith for his pragmatic mix of policy positions — favoring income-tax cuts and smaller government while supporting Medicaid expansion under the federal health care law and certain tax increases. He says he hasn’t abandoned the conservative agenda but redefines it around core American values.



Kasich defeated an incumbent Democrat in 1978 to become the youngest person elected to the Ohio Senate, at age 26. Four years later, he was elected to the U.S. House, where he served nine terms. In a three-year blaze of activity after his work as lead negotiator on the balanced budget, he wrote a best-selling book, declined re-election to Congress, made a brief run for president and landed a show on Fox News, “Heartland with John Kasich.” In 2001, the year he left Washington, he began his years at Lehman Brothers. He’s been governor since January 2011.



Kasich was born in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, on May 13, 1952, the son of a mail carrier. His grandparents were Hungarian, Czech and Croatian immigrants. Kasich left the blue-collar town outside Pittsburgh to attend Ohio State University in Columbus, where he received a bachelor’s degree in political science. As a freshman, he wrote to President Richard Nixon praising his leadership and requesting a meeting. Nixon obliged, giving him 20 minutes. Kasich was raised Catholic but turned to a more fundamentalist brand of Christianity after his parents were killed by a drunk driver. John and Karen Waldbillig Kasich have twin 15-year-old daughters, Emma and Reese. They chose to live in their own home in a Columbus suburb rather than the governor’s residence.



Kasich endured years of litigation, political resistance and media investigations after he privatized Ohio’s economic development department, designing the nonprofit JobsOhio to “move at the speed of business.” In March, he announced that Ohio had regained the more than the 406,000 private-sector jobs lost during the recession, a fulfilment of a campaign promise and, as he saw it, a vindication of his effort. Ohio’s recovery mirrored national trends. But he said JobsOhio, tax cuts and innovation in government set an example for other states.



Kasich has been a frequent visitor to New Hampshire and South Carolina and, in June, made his first trip to Iowa since running for president 15 years ago. Kasich also traveled extensively around the country earlier this year to champion a federal balanced budget amendment. He’s off to early-voting states after his announcement.



Kasich wrote “Courage is Contagious” in 1998, chronicling the stories of 20 “everyday Americans” working to improve their communities. Kasich has written two subsequent books: “Stand for Something: The Battle for America’s Soul” in 2006 and “Every Other Monday: Twenty Years of Life, Lunch, Faith, and Friendship” in 2011, featuring discussions and anecdotes from his twice-a-month prayer group.



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