Ohio Gov. John Kasich urges Hopkins students to seize their power as voters

Ohio Gov. John Kasich told Johns Hopkins students on Monday that both major political parties had failed to capture the imagination of young voters and he called on the country to move away from "wicked partisanship."

In an hour-long address in which President Donald Trump was named only once, Kasich argued for a more civil politics and reiterated his view that Tuesday's election results in Virginia, New Jersey and elsewhere demonstrated that if the GOP doesn't move to a "better place" that "we're going to lose."

"What I'm concerned about now is the tone in the country. I'm concerned that people just consume that which they agree with," the Republican and 2016 presidential candidate said. "I'm concerned that we have siloed ourselves, where we can't listen to one another."

Kasich encouraged students to remain active in the political process and demand more from their elected officials.

Kasich, who hasn’t ruled out a primary challenge to Trump in 2020, told the students to seize their power as part of a powerful population of voters.

If the political parties “do not become clear in terms of their values and their vision and their view of our country, you’re not going to join either party,” Kasich told the crowd of mostly millennials. “My party worries too much about the right. The Democrats are moving so far to the left, I don’t know where they’re going to stop. They’re going to have to get their act together because you’re up for grabs.”

Kasich touched on gun violence -- saying he hopes to bring both sides of the debate together to seek solutions to mass shootings -- and said he believes some good had come out of the widening sexual harassment and abuse allegations against men in entertainment.

"The best thing that can come out of Hollywood is the time for men to respect women and for women to speak out is here," Kasich said.

The Ohio governor was among the first to call on Alabama's GOP Senate nominee, Roy Moore, to get out of the race following allegations that he sexually assaulted minors in the 1970s and 1980s. Moore has denied those allegations as he faces increasing pressure from party leaders.

"Look we're not talking about a criminal conviction, we're talking about whether somebody ought to carry the banner of the Republican Party," Kasich told ABC's This Week on Sunday. "I would just really like it if he stepped aside."

He briefly mentioned the Moore scandal again Monday in Baltimore, saying that, "I wasn't for Judge Moore before any of this stuff ever came out. … I didn't like the guy before that because I thought it was too much anger -- too narrow."

Kasich, who was introduced at the event as "publicly considering" another presidential campaign, interrupted to quip: "No, no that's not true."

Kasich campaigned repeatedly in Maryland in the weeks before the state's presidential primary in 2016. He performed well in a state where GOP voters tend to back centrists, capturing 106,614 votes.

He nevertheless placed a distant second to Trump, who won 248,343 votes.

"I don't think you win elections by just appealing to your base," Kasich said. "What about the independents and the disaffected in the other parties?"

Kasich has signed a number of letters to congressional leaders in recent months along with Republican and Democratic governors, including Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. Several of those letters criticized the GOP approach to repealing Obamacare -- including proposed cuts to the Medicaid -- that lawmakers later abandoned.

Kasich’s speech was part of the university’s annual Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium, which has already this year welcomed speakers such as the organizers of the Women’s March.

Charles Crepy D'Orleans, a senior at the university and the symposium’s programming chair, said it was important to host speakers with a range of political beliefs, especially on a college campus that tends to lean left.

“It’s important to be aware of both sides,” he said. “Each side needs to hear each other out. Whether you agree or disagree, it’s important to be aware.”

Some student groups organized a panel discussion following Kasich’s speech. JHU Students for a Democratic Society and JHU Voice for Choice handed out fliers before the symposium, reading “This man is not your friend.”

The fliers pointed to Kasich’s pro-life beliefs and anti-abortion record.

“We know MSE’s goal is to promote diverse viewpoints, but we wanted to counter the presentation,” said Voice for Choice’s vice president, Karen Sheng. “He has done some egregious things.”

Kasich was questioned throughout the event about his record related to abortion. He signed a bill last year that bans abortions after 20 weeks, though he vetoed a measure that would have banned the procedure after a fetal heartbeat became detectable. He also signed a bill last year cutting funding to Planned Parenthood.

The governor plainly repeated throughout the event that he is pro-life.

“Every question can’t be about one single issue,” he said. “That’s my position. That’s how it goes. If people don’t agree, that’s OK. I respect them. It’s a very, very tough issue.”

trichman@baltsun.com

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