Kasich Balks at Endorsing GOP Nominee for Ohio Governor

Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks as he withdraws as a Republican presidential candidate in Columbus, Ohio, May 4, 2016. (Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters)

Ohio’s term-limited Republican governor, John Kasich, has so far avoided endorsing the GOP nominee to replace him, state attorney general Mike DeWine, citing concerns about the future of one of his signature policies, Medicaid expansion.

“It was held and some people won,” Kasich said simply when asked about the gubernatorial primary on Wednesday, before adding that he feels “very, very strongly about the issue of Medicaid expansion.”

DeWine has floated implementing restrictions on those seeking Medicaid coverage, including a work requirement, and his campaign has confirmed that he would “pursue block granting of Medicaid” if elected. Kasich’s Medicaid expansion has provided health insurance to over 700,000 low-income Ohioans who did not have coverage before 2013, and critics assert that proposals to convert the program to a block-grant model would almost certainly lead to cuts in that coverage.

Kasich “looks forward to meeting with Mike and discussing the concerns,” his spokesman, Chris Schrimpf, said earlier this week.

“We would love to have the governor’s support and we hope we can earn it,” DeWine campaign spokesman Joshua Eck said.

The Democratic Governor’s Association took notice of the division between the Republicans and used it to slam DeWine.

“That’s not exactly a vote of confidence from the governor of your own party,” the group said in a statement. “When it comes to party unity, Mike DeWine and the Ohio Republicans have a tough road ahead.”

With less than eight months left as governor, Kasich also voiced concerns about the “sanctity” of another of his signature projects, the job-creation program JobsOhio. Democrats have looked askance at the program’s privatized nature, which Kasich hopes is maintained after he leaves office.

“We want to maintain the private nature and the incredible efforts of JobsOhio,” Kasich said. “Any effort to politicize that and take that back into the government, to me, would be a disaster.”

DeWine won the primary Tuesday night and faces a tough race against his Democratic opponent, Richard Cordray, who has said he will “not get rid of JobsOhio” and supports the Medicaid expansion in its current form.

“It’s a health-care program. It’s not a work program,” Cordray told TalkingPointsMemo last month. “First of all, most of those people are disabled or they’re already looking for work. So it’s really a symbolic thing they want to do — a political statement. It’s going to apply to a very small slice [of people], but it’s really going to hurt that slice. What’s it going to do? It’s going to push them out of the health care system, and eventually they’re going to need treatment and they’ll come to the emergency room and we’ll all pay the price for that.”

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