Criticisms of Trump aside, Kasich insists he’s a conservative

12:39 p.m Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017 Politics
Ohio Gov. John Kasich talks with fairgoers while he tours the Ohio State Fair, Thursday, July 27, 2017, in Columbus. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

The biggest news flash Ohio Gov. John Kasich gave a student-run symposium at Johns Hopkins University Monday was this: Despite others’ assertions and descriptions to the contrary, he is, in fact, a conservative.

Kasich has become a fixture on Sunday talk shows by bucking President Donald Trump, decrying hyper-partisanship and, at one point, hinting that he might run for office again one day as an independent.

But Kasich dismissed the characterizations of him by others, saying, “I’m not a moderate. I’m a conservative.”

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What does being a conservative mean to him? It means, he said, that he’s for “low taxes, common-sense regulations, helping people who can’t help themselves, (and) making sure we balance the budget.”

Even on gun control, where Kasich has called for gun-rights and gun-control advocates to “find some common ground,” Kasich’s record is clear.

Although he ran afoul of the National Rifle Association as a member of Congress by supporting the 1994 federal ban on assault weapons, he returned to the organization’s good graces in this decade by signing bills as Ohio’s governor that expanded the ability to carry a concealed weapon into bars, the Statehouse parking garage, colleges and day cares.

Having the two sides talk to each other is key to reaching some level of compromise, he said.

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“If you sit them down and there’s goodwill, it’s amazing what you can work out,” he said. If I were president, that’s what I would’ve done.”

Kasich was grilled by some of the Johns Hopkins students, including a few who questioned his decision to sign bills restricting abortion. “I’m pro-life,” he said, adding, “If people don’t agree with me on the issue, that’s OK; I respect them. It’s a very, very tough issue.”

He said he’s “always been a Republican,” in part because “I don’t like to stand in line. I don’t like rules. I don’t like any of that stuff. I like to freewheel it.”

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Now, he said, he views his job as trying to pull the party in the right direction on issues such as the environment, trade and immigration.

“I’m concerned people just consume that which they agree with,” he said. “I’m concerned we have siloed ourselves, where we can’t listen to one another, where we may disagree on an issue, but we can’t hear one another.”