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Capital News: Kasich leaving behind the '80s for the 21st Century

by MARC KOVAC | CAPITAL BUREAU CHIEF Published: August 24, 2016 12:00 AM

Columbus -- Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman was asked last week about gay marriage and legislation banning discrimination in housing and employment based on an individual's sexual orientation.

Portman's answer wasn't surprising -- he helped to move a federal law changes in the Senate on the issue.

"It has to do with jobs and opportunity, that's where I am," he said. "We'll continue to work on that agenda as well. I believe you ought to respect people for who they are, and I'm proud of that."

But the question prompted something of a surprising response from Gov. John Kasich, who was on the campaign trail with Portman a few days ago.

The governor has called Ohio's U.S. Senate race among his top priorities, as he works to help Republican retain control of Congress.

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He used Portman's answer as a springboard into a bigger pool, outlining the approach to issues that he believes Republicans should be adopting if they want to connect with a young and changing electorate.

Portman and other GOP'ers have the economic policy stuff right, Kasich said.

"You've got to balance budgets, you can't have all this regulation choking, particularly, small business, you've got to have a tax system that encourages growth," he said.

But, he added, "The Republican Party cannot be stuck in the 1980s."

And that means shifting some of its focus to other issues, like human trafficking, drug addiction, even rain forests.

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Which Portman is doing, the governor said.

"He is a senator that understands the things that need to be done and the agendas that we need to have to move not only the party forward but more importantly the country forward," he said.

The agenda includes combatting discrimination against the gay community and others. That's another issue where Portman has been in front of others int he party, Kasich said.

"That's what the party needs," he said. "It can't be afraid to talk about the environment or civil rights or the issue of connecting people or deregulation to the point where we can have economic growth and a government that's more responsive to people."

And that's what Portman is about, Kasich said.

"He's a modern, 21st Century U.S. senator, and that's why it's so important that he's able to be reelected," he said.

As for Kasich, a potential 2020 presidential contender?

"I'm not in the '80s," he said. "I live in the 21st Century."

No Trump Talk

During the same stop, Kasich continued to refrain from mentioning Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, deflecting questions that were asked about his decision not to endorse the billionaire businessman.

"I'm for Portman/," Kasich said at one point, when pressed on Portman's support for Trump. "I'm a Republican, I've been all of my lifetime and I support Republicans' orthodoxy, though I'd like to see it change/ The 21st Century is a time of dramatic change, and I believe Portman represents that."

The closest he came to a direct response was when a reporter mentioned Trump would be in Akron in coming days.

"I won't be," Kasich said.

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.


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