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Kasich tells voters: 'People need a choice'

Oregon visit is first by a Republican presidential hopeful

PARIS ACHEN - Ohio Gov. John Kasich - the first GOP presidential candidate to visit Oregon in 2016 - speaks to a crowd of 420 people April 28, 2016, at Castaway Portland in Northwest Portland.Ohio Gov. John Kasich told a Northwest Portland town hall crowd of about 400 people Thursday, April 28, 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 here 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, including Oregon.

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 count.

“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 announcing they were joining forces to prevent Trump from securing the Republican nomination. As part of the alleged 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.

But whatever agreement they had, if any, broke down a few days after it was announced.