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Ohio governor is the first GOP presidential candidate to visit Oregon

JONATHAN HOUSE - Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks to a crowd of more than 400 Thursday, April 28, 2016, at Castaway Portland in Northwest Portland. The event marked the first visit to Oregon by a GOP presidential candidate in advance of the state's May 17 primary.Ohio Gov. John Kasich told a Northwest Portland town hall crowd of about 400 people Thursday afternoon that he wasn't planning to quit the Republican presidential race, even though he has long odds.

"You've got to give people a choice," Kasich told the crowd at Castaway Portland.

Kasich is the first GOP presidential candidate to visit Oregon in advance of the state's May 17 primary election. He was scheduled to visit Medford later in the day.

People at the Northwest Portland town hall greeted Kasich with deafening applause and cheers. The visit was intended to build momentum and name recognition for Kasich who has been running in last place in the Republican three-way primary. A poll released Thursday by Portland’s Hoffman Research Group showed that 5 percent of Oregon Republicans have never heard of Kasich.

“I started with zero name ID," Kasich said. "I never realized that if you ran for president that there wouldn’t be enough oxygen to rise."

The poll of 555 randomly selected Republicans registered in Oregon also showed 43 percent of Republicans favor New York billionaire Donald Trump for president, compared with 17 percent for Kasich. About 26 percent prefer Sen. Ted Cruz.

Those are long odds for the Ohio governor, who so far has only claimed victory in his home state. Kasich told the crowd in Northwest Portland that he is staying in the race to give Republicans an alternative to Trump and Cruz, especially if there is a contested Republican National Convention in the summer.

“If Donald Trump goes to a convention short of the exact number (of delegates) he needs he is not going to be picked," Kasich said.

After a short speech, Kasich took questions from the audience about the economy, education, national security and the war on drugs, among others.

"These problems really are pretty easy to fix," Kasich said. "What has gotten in the way is politics, partisanship, vitriol, anger, division, polarization in almost our entire political system."

Of particular interest to Oregon is the candidate’s stance on legalized marijuana. Kasich made it clear he disagrees with the idea but would not interfere in states, where it has been legalized.

Kasich supporters who attended the nearly 90-minute town hall said they believe Kasich is the Republicans’ only hope for winning the White House.

“I don’t see Trump or Cruz winning a general election,” said Mark Milner, a Beaverton resident who attended Thursday’s event.

Milner, formerly an independent, said he registered as a Republican a couple of weeks ago to vote for Kasich in the primary. He said he is considering voting for Hillary Clinton if Kasich loses the GOP nomination because he prefers a moderate.

“Kasich is a person who could work with the other side,” Milner said.

Others said their main problem with Kasich is his small delegate county.

“I really hope he does something to get a little more interest in his campaign and what he’s saying,” said Robert Starr, a Washington County resident. “I know the odds are not that great.”

Earlier in the week, Kasich and Cruz, issued joint statements April 25 announcing that they were joining forces to prevent Trump from securing the Republican nomination. As part of the pact, Kasich agreed to end his campaign in Indiana, a winner-takes-all primary May 3, where Cruz hopes to win 57 delegates. In exchange, Cruz agreed to pull his campaign out of Oregon and New Mexico.

The poll by Hoffman Research Group, a division of Gateway Communications, was the first of Republican voters in Oregon this election. The group polled 555 randomly selected Republicans Tuesday and Thursday, focusing on the state’s eastern and rural areas, according to a news release. The poll has a 4.2 percent margin of error.

By Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital Bureau Reporter
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