Castleton University’s Casella Theater was packed beyond capacity Monday with people even sitting on the stage, in the aisles and standing in the back.
Individuals from all political parties and ages filled the room to hear republican candidate Gov. John Kasich speak, including 7-year-old Regan Bluto, who handed the governor a handmade sign at the start of the event.
Kasich started the speech by introducing his twin daughters and his wife Karen.
“I’ve been in politics since they were nine. They could care less that their dad is running for president,” Kasich joked during his third visit to the state. “I have developed a not-so-secret love for Vermont,” he said. “I served in congress with Bernie. I like his idea for free stuff — one year free, all Ben and Jerry’s ice cream!”
Kasich talked about growing up with hard working parents in a small blue-collar community.
“My father stuck his nose in everybody’s business and that’s a good thing,” he said. “I get the sense that in the small towns and burbs of Vermont and Massachusetts and where I grew up that maybe we still stick our nose into other people’s business.”
His father, a mailman, would congratulate neighborhood kids for their touchdown at the game and would also cry right alongside neighbors in times of trouble.
“I have had more interactions with real voters than all the candidates put together. Throughout the whole campaign I am who I am, and what you see is what you get,” Kasich said. “I intend to remain the adult in the campaign for president.”
He emphasized the importance of change starting in communities, not at the federal level. He also talked about persistence, saying how as a student at Ohio State, he wrote a letter to President Nixon and was granted the opportunity to meet him in the Oval Office.
Kasich also put a focus on education, saying young people today are much more informed and interested in meaning more than they are in money.
Questions from the audience included concerns about the Tor Server, sexual assault and child pornography. Kasich interrupted the speaker to say of course he will work to shut down the Tor Server, also mentioning a program his wife worked on in Ohio to get prostitutes out of the criminal justice system, and treat them like victims, rather than criminals.
While legalization of marijuana is a hot topic in Vermont right now, Kasich said he may support medical marijuana if there is proof that it helps, but he does not support recreational marijuana use, although he admitted to using it in the past.
Kasich also said he supports renewable energy sources and developing battery technology to store green power when the sun and wind aren’t available.
On the topic of terrorism, Kasich said he wants to de-escalate tensions with Russia and support the Ukrainians trying to gain freedom.
“When America sits on the sidelines, good things won’t happen,” he said.
The audience was clearly composed of individuals from across the political spectrum. When Kasich mentioned his father was a democrat, there was a small cheer from the audience.
“What? Bernie wasn’t in town so you had nothing else to do?” Kasich joked. “Maybe I can get you to change your mind by the time you leave.”
Ray Phillips, from Fair Haven, is a Bernie supporter, but agreed with many things Kasich had to say.
“If he gets the republican nomination, I’d probably vote for him. I don’t think he will, but I don’t think Bernie will either,” Phillips said. “He’s more on the moderate side. Seems like we like the entertainment value too much in America. It’s good he came to a small town in Vermont.”
Randy Kinne of North Clarendon agrees.
“No one looks beneath the surface. If you look beneath the surface there’s a lot of bad water,” he said, adding that Kasich has the most political experience of any candidate.
Castleton sophomore Grace Manozzi knew little about Kasich before Monday’s event, but she was sold.
“I had no idea about him. He’s so quiet in comparison to Donald Trump’s ego,” Manozzi said. “He is the all-encompassing candidate. He believes in a cohesive relationship with republicans and democrats. His approach to things are a lot more logical. I’m so impressed.”
Asked after the event about the campaign trail so far, he simply said it was “insane.” And what does he think of Castleton?
“It’s great! It’s fantastic! I’d like to come back!”