FAIRFIELD, Conn. — Republican presidential hopeful John Kasich staged a well-attended town hall meeting in Fairfield Friday, touching on taxes, veteran affairs, faith and a range of topics in an upbeat, often humorous forum.
Positioning himself firmly above the divisive, name-calling tone of much of the GOP election cycle, the two-term Ohio governor pledged to bring great minds together from both sides of the political aisle to change what’s wrong with government and champion what’s right.
“We are still the strongest country by far and we should stop whining about America. That’s playing to people’s fears,” he told the crowd of about 1,000 at Sacred Heart University’s Martire Business & Communications Center.
Asked how he would reform the tax system, Kasich said he would only support a flat tax if we were starting a new country “on a desert island.” The U.S. tax system is too entrenched to tear apart completely, he said.
He pledged to work towards practical changes that are “simple, flatter and fairer.” He suggested creating three tiers — 28, 25, and 10 percent — with an earned income tax credit.
Kasich said he would keep business-friendly changes in mind, something he believes will help Connecticut.
“If I have to read about another company leaving Connecticut…,” he said, shaking his head. “The proof is in the pudding.”
Under his plan, Social Security would also get a makeover, so that “people who make more money will get less and people who depend on it will get what they need.”
Asked about the fact that he trails both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in the delegate race, Kasich told the crowd “Abraham Lincoln went in in fourth place.”
He pointed to the most recent national polls about his viability in the November election.
“I’m the only candidate who consistently beats Hillary Clinton in the fall,” he said.
In introducing Kasich, former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays (R-4) said his long-time friend is someone who has more experience and insight than frontrunner Donald Trump.
“The solution is not to elect an angry man who acts like a seventh-grade bully,” he said.
When a student asked about fracking, Kasich said he supports energy independence in America, so “we don’t have to go to war” to ensure we have the power we need. However, he said, Ohio has enacted strict regulations on the practice and he said his home state is constantly upgrading to maintain the environment.
“We should exploit the resources without destroying the environment,” he said.
Faith was an underlying message throughout the afternoon, especially when a 20-year-old student asked about veterans’ needs. She said her father, a Marine who saw combat in Vietnam, died three years ago from the aftereffects of Agent Orange exposure and her family is having a hard time working through the red tape.
“The lord’s in charge. You know that?” Kasich asked her.
“I do,” she answered.
Kasich told her about his own journey in 1987, when he received a call telling him his parents had been killed in a car accident. He asked her to give her contact information to other officials present so he could help her family.
“We were made special by a creator that thinks we have a real purpose in life,” he said earlier in the afternoon.
While Kasich said he looks to bring people together, he also said he will not focus on making friends or getting re-elected.
“If you don’t like me, that’s fine,” he said. “If you want a friend in Washington, buy a dog.”
Connor Finn of Norwalk said he planned to vote for Trump or Cruz before attending Friday's event, but he was impressed with Kasich's attitude and his views on veterans.
"He just made my job harder," he said.
The Connecticut Primary will be on Tuesday, April 26.
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