Ohio's John Kasich, a blunt Republican governor known for defying his party, on Tuesday became the 16th notable Republican contestant to enter the U.S. 2016 presidential race.
Kasich joined an unusually diverse Republican lineup with two Hispanics, an African-American, one woman and several younger candidates alongside older white men such as Kasich, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
"I am here to ask you for your prayers, for your support, for your efforts because I have decided to run for president," Kasich said in a scattered 43-minute speech packed with family anecdotes, historical references and calls for national renewal.
A veteran congressman as well as second-term governor, Kasich told voters he is the only Republican candidate with experience in three broad areas of political leadership – the federal budget, national security and state government. He also spent nearly a decade at Lehman Brothers.
"I have the experience and the testing," he said, "the testing which shapes you and prepares you for the most important job in the world and I believe I know how to work and help restore this great United States."
Kasich ran for president once before, briefly seeking the 2000 nomination after he helped seal a federal balanced budget deal as House Budget chairman in 1997.
Known for his scrappy political style, Kasich has demonstrated a willingness to buck his own party when practical. Unlike other Republican governors in the crowded presidential field, he departed from Republican orthodoxy to expand a government health care coverage program for low-income people in line with President Barack Obama's federal health care reform law.
Kasich declared his candidacy at Ohio State University, where as a freshman political science major in 1970, he audaciously wrote a letter that landed him a 20-minute audience with President Richard Nixon.
The man who once figuratively told lobbyists to get on his bus or he'd run them over and who called a police officer an "idiot" helped erase a budget deficit projected at nearly $8 billion when he entered office, boost Ohio's rainy-day fund to a historic high and seen private-sector employment rebound to its post-recession level. This, through budget cutting, privatization of parts of Ohio's government and other, often business-style innovations.
Kasich, who is currently lagging at the bottom of early national polls, faces an immediate challenge to qualify for the first Republican debate. That faceoff takes place next month in his home-state city of Cleveland and only the top 10 candidates in national polling will be invited.
Kasich was born in Pennsylvania, the son of a mail carrier and grandchild of Hungarian, Czech and Croatian immigrants. In 1978, he launched his political career by defeating an incumbent Democrat to become the youngest person elected to the Ohio Senate, at age 26.