John Kasich talks to ISU students about mental illness, foreign policy

2016 Republican presidential candidate John Kasich speaks during a town hall in the Campanile Room of the Memorial Union on Nov. 30.

Madison Tuttle

Republican presidential candidate John Kasich was in Ames on Monday, hosting an event at the Memorial Union to meet with students and Ames residents.

The event had a town-hall style setup, with Kasich, a former U.S. representative and current governor of Ohio, speaking to attendees sitting in a circle. He spoke about a variety of topics and also fielded questions from people in attendance.

Kasich said he spoke with a Story County sheriff before the event, which caused him to open up the event by talking about mental illness in America.

“We have a problem with the mentally ill,” Kasich said. “We don’t mind talking about the fact that I have a broken arm, but we don’t want to talk about the fact that something is not working right in my noggin.”

Kasich said that while we have improved the national dialogue on mental health, the United States still needs to work on finding programs that can further assist people who have a mental illness.

He also talked about the severity of drug addiction, telling students they “cannot get [themselves] involved” in drug use. Kasich spoke about the addictive qualities of opiates such as heroin, and how they destroyed the lives of some members of his community in Ohio.

Kasich then went on to speak about foreign policy issues such as ISIS, saying that “they are at war with our way of life.”

He called for a coalition of countries, led by the United States, to come together and destroy ISIS.

Sean McAllister, an attendee who traveled to Ames for the event, asked Kasich if he would fully fund foreign aid programs that fight aids, tuberculosis and Malaria, including a humanitarian organization in Africa.

“I can’t tell you if I would fully fund something because I don’t know what the cost is,” Kasich said, adding that a lot of programs are not efficient or effective, but he did not totally discount the idea of foreign aid.

McAllister said that while he liked Kasich’s approach and that he felt Kasich was being himself while he was talking, he was disappointed that Kasich did not know a lot about the foreign aid program he asked about.

McAllister said that when he asked Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio the same question, they both said they would support a bill to fully fund the program.

Robert Dunn, senior in accounting, asked Kasich how Republicans would keep their conservative base and how the party can attract more voters by staying true to those values.

Kasich said he believes that the Republican Party should stick to their promise of fiscal conservatism.

“Lower taxes because when you have money in your pocket, you’ve got the power,” Kasich said. “The best government is the government closest to us.”

He added that a “one size fits all mentality” on government programs prevents productivity in communities.

Kasich also said the government can’t over regulate because it deters small businesses owners and entrepreneurs, and that Americans want to believe in free enterprise.

Khayree Fitten, junior in political science who is the chairman of the Students for Kasich group, said he believed the event went well and that Kasich came off well while engaging the audience.

Kasich also mingled with attendees after the event, shaking hands, answering more questions and taking photos with supporters.

Speaking to a group of reporters after the event, Kasich made his first in-depth comments about the shooting that took place last Friday at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado.

“It seems to be another case of a loner, and mental illness and [someone who is] deeply disturbed,” Kasich said. “States are going to have to do their job in being able to communicate this as they are suppose to under the law. It’s just horrible to think about these people going anywhere with these guns, wherever they are, and shooting innocent people. We need to be able to be sure who these people are so they cannot get their hands on firearms.”

When asked about his poll numbers, which have hovered at just a few percentage points in Iowa, Kasich said his campaign will continue along and he will continue in the race past the Iowa Caucus, which is currently scheduled for Feb. 1.

“My [campaign is] not dependent on national polls, and I have not really spent all the time I would have liked to in Iowa,” Kasich said. “I’m in the top-tier in New Hampshire, it’s going well. We think it’s going well here with voter identification and we’re in this.”

“We’re fine, and you’ll see us for a long time,” he added.

Kasich’s event Monday was a part of the Presidential Caucus Series, which has already hosted Carly Fiorina, Rand Paul and Rick Santorum this cycle. The event was sponsored by the Committee on Lectures, the ISU College Republicans and Student Government.

The Daily’s Alex Hanson contributed to this story.