John Kasich attempted to appeal to a crowd filled with students at his town hall forum Monday, and while some were impressed, he alienated others with his policies and remarks.
“His answers regarding Planned Parenthood and his plans to defund the program were extremely frustrating,” sophomore Alexa Mendieta said.
Bobby McCurdy a junior, said that he thought the event was fantastic and found Kasich to be very transparent. “Congress needs a President they can work with,” he said, “and Kasich made a good case for why that person should be him.”
Around 500 people, a mix of students, faculty and community members, piled into the Jepson Alumni Center on Monday morning for the arrival of Kasich, Ohio governor and Republican presidential candidate.
Kasich used the town hall forum as an opportunity to highlight his political record, outline his policies and appeal to voters in an important presidential election swing state.
The event was held on the University of Richmond campus after coordination between Virginia Foundation for Research and Economic Education (Virginia FREE), Dan Palazzolo, professor of political science, and College Republicans.
Stephanie Zemanek, chairwoman of College Republicans, helped to secure the space in the alumni center, did a walk-through with the Kasich campaign last week to plan everything and organized logistics the morning of the event.
“I am so happy with the turn out,” Zemanek said, “I’m happy with how many students came. …I think students aren’t really involved in politics because they think politics is up here in this other realm, and I really want to bring it personally to the students.”
Attendees who arrived first, many who were Richmond students, were given the opportunity to sit in the raised seats directly behind Kasich.
Chris Saxman, president of Virginia FREE, opened the event and introduced state delegates, Del. Ron Villanueva and Del. Glenn Davis, Republicans from districts near Virginia Beach, who then introduced Kasich.
After Kasich made a few remarks about his blue-collar upbringing in Pennsylvania being raised by a father who worked as a mailman, he appealed to students directly with anecdotes from his college years at Ohio State University. He spoke of the time he wrote a letter to President Richard Nixon and ended up invited for a short meeting in the Oval Office with the president at age 18.
Kasich went on to highlight achievements from his career in Congress, such as helping to balance the federal budget, and his terms as governor of Ohio, giving himself credit for aiding in the economic prosperity Ohio achieved during his tenure.
Kasich then began answering questions from the audience.
Angelo Suggs Jr., Richmond College Student Government Association president, got to ask the first question. When he told Kasich that it was his birthday, Kasich insisted on leading the crowd in a round of “Happy Birthday to You.”
“I think it’s really cool that we get to have these type of events where candidates get to come onto our campus,” Suggs said. “We’re the University of Richmond, but we always try to be a university for Richmond, so I think it’s cool to see that we get to integrate the wider community.”
Kasich fielded questions on topics ranging from social security to Planned Parenthood to immigration. In a Republican field filled with many non-politicians, Kasich emphasized his political achievements over the span of his long career.
“Let me tell you something,” Kasich said, “you look at a person’s past record to tell you what they would do going forward, that’s why I talk about my record. …I’m not interested in being a warrior, I’m interested in being a leader.”
He spoke of his ability to separate himself from partisan tensions and find areas in which to agree with constituents as well as fellow politicians.
“The event allowed students to observe a presidential candidate up close,” said Dan Palazzolo, professor of political science. “Several students got the chance to ask questions and others had pictures taken with Kasich.”
While calling on sophomore Kayla Solsbak, who was nearly jumping out of her seat to get noticed, Kasich said with a laugh, “I’m sorry, I don’t have any Taylor Swift tickets.”
Kasich also said at one point, “I’m sure you get invited to all of the parties,” to one of the female students sitting in the front row of raised seats.
Comments like these, along with some of Kasich’s remarks on his policies, led to mixed reactions from some of the students who attended the event.
“I think he is quite impressive,” McCurdy said, “especially in regards to his willingness to put finding a solution above scoring political points with one side or another.”
Mendieta said she was overall fairly disappointed in the event. “The first half of the event was great,” she said, “I thought that Kasich was making a lot of points that I thought could agree with. But once the floor was opened to questions, I was discouraged.”
Although students had varied reactions to Kasich, many were impressed that a large political event was held on campus.
“It’s really exciting,” said Monica Stack, a member of College Republicans, “I think it’s a really big deal that someone who is running for president is coming here.”
Mendieta said she was interested to see if this event would set a precedent for more political events to occur on campus throughout the upcoming election season and beyond.
Kasich’s team wanted to hold an event in Richmond because it is a key part of Virginia, which is an important state during the primaries, said Chris Schrimpf, communications director for Kasich’s campaign.
“Since Richmond is in the heart of a battleground state in presidential politics, more candidates will be coming to town,” Palazzolo said. “We should welcome them to the campus.”
Contact managing editor Brooke Harty at firstname.lastname@example.org.