John Kasich was born in Pennsylvania in 1952. After studying political science in college, he began his career as an aide before being elected to the Ohio State Senate in 1978. Four years later, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, in which he served until 2000. After a brief time away from politics, in 2010 Kasich was elected governor of Ohio. A year after winning reelection, he announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.
From Priesthood to Politics
John Kasich was born in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, on May 13, 1952. His parents were postal workers who raised their son as a Catholic and encouraged him to participate in community service both through the church and his high school. For a time, Kasich considered joining the priesthood. After graduation, however, Kasich left home to attend Ohio State University, where he focused his studies on political science. Already passionate about the subject in his freshman year, he wrote a letter about his views to then president Richard Nixon and was invited for a visit to the White House shortly thereafter.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1974, Kasich set out to establish both a family and a career, marrying Mary Lee Griffith and also finding work as an aide to Republican Ohio Senator Donald Lukens. Though Kasich’s marriage to Mary would come to an end five years later, his political career was just getting started, and in 1978 the 26-year-old ran successfully against incumbent Democrat Robert O’Shaughnessy to win a seat in the Ohio State Senate, making him the youngest person to ever do so. Four years later, Kasich set his sights on the U.S. House of Representatives, and again defeated a Democratic incumbent to become a member of Congress.
Congress and Beyond
Kasich served in the House from 1983 to 2001, winning reelection eight times. Among his duties during his tenure, he was a member of the Armed Services Committee and chairman of the House Budget Committee, in which he was instrumental in the passing of the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 and the Balanced Budget Agreement of 1997. On the home front, in 1997 Kasich also remarried, to business executive Karen Walldbilig, with whom he would have twin daughters Emma and Reese.
Seeking to capitalize on his successes as a congressman, in 1999 Kasich made a brief run for the Republican presidential nomination before stepping aside and endorsing George W. Bush’s candidacy. The following year, he chose not to seek reelection, deciding instead to return to Ohio to focus on other pursuits. During the next decade he worked as the managing director of Lehman Brother’s investment banking division, hosted the FOX News show From the Heartland with John Kasich and authored three New York Times best sellers about his personal experiences and beliefs.
In 2010, Kasich marked his return to politics by defeating incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland for the governorship of Ohio. Sworn in on January 10, 2011, Kasich has focused his efforts on balancing the state’s budget and reducing taxes and unemployment. However, his time in office has included controversy as well, including his—ultimately unsuccessful—attempt to pass a measure limiting the collective bargaining rights of public workers and his 2013 decision to go against GOP grain to accept money from Obamacare to expand Medicare in the state. In 2016, he signed a bill that would defund organizations that performed abortions.
However, in November Ohio voters endorsed their governor when they reelected Kasich by a 30-point margin. His political confidence running high, in July 21, 2015, Kasich announced his intention to run for the Republican presidential nomination, joining a crowded 16-candidate race. A longshot from the start, Kasich has consistently trailed by significant margins in the polls and in the delegate count—winning only his home state of Ohio—but as of March 2016 he was one of only three remaining candidates, along with Texas Senator Ted Cruz and real estate mogul Donald Trump. Looking to play spoiler by splitting delegates and forcing the nomination to the Republican National Convention, Kasich hopes to eventually emerge as the Republican Party’s most viable candidate for the presidency.
On May 3, 2016, Cruz suspended his campaign following Trump's win in the Indiana primary. Kasich dropped out of the race the following day. "I have always said that the Lord has a purpose for me as he has for everyone," Kasich said at a press conference in Columbus, Ohio. "And as I suspend my campaign today, I have renewed faith, deeper faith, that the Lord will show me the way forward, and fulfill the purpose of my life."
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