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Politics & Government

Kasich Heralds 'Pittsburgh Values' In Lunchtime Campaign Stop

Republican John Kasich became the latest presidential candidate to make a stop in the Steel City with a quick appearance in Market Square on Tuesday.

Though Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, in addition to Republican candidate Donald Trump, brought thousands to recent Pittsburgh stumps, the Ohio governor stopped only briefly for a low-key lunch at the Original Oyster House Downtown.

Credit Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
Republican presidential hopeful John Kasich enjoys a fish sandwich from the Original Oyster House in Downtown Pittsburgh during a short campaign stop on Tuesday, April 19, 2016.

  Between bites of fish, the GOP underdog spoke about his childhood in McKees Rocks, caught up on Penguins playoff gossip and addressed his relative strength against a Democratic nominee in the general election.

Kasich said he’s now approaching Republican delegates directly.

“It’s all about accumulating delegates going into the convention," he said, "because now everybody has figured out that we’re actually going to go to competitive convention, an open convention.”

According to an April poll from Quinnipiac University, Kasich is the only Republican projected to be able to defeat either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders in Pennsylvania.

“I can compete in Pennsylvania in the general election, in Michigan, in Wisconsin," he said. "These are places where Republicans are generally written off and don’t do very well.”

Republican front-runner Donald Trump, whose supporters and protesters clashed in the streets for hours during and after his rally Downtown, said last week he'd bring Pittsburgh’s steel and coal industries back. 

Kasich took a different stance.

“In Pittsburgh, we’ve kind of moved to a new set of industries,” Kasich said. “Instead of making … widgets, we’re now making computer chips. We know that Pittsburgh has had a renaissance.”

Pittsburgh's reputation as an industrial powerhouse could come back in the form of advanced manufacturing, higher education and lower energy prices driven by local fracking.

“I think there's a place for heavy industry," he said. "It’s in our DNA.”

University of Pittsburgh freshman John Fazio, 19, of Murrysville skipped class to see Kasich, who he called “inspiring.” Fazio said Kasich is the only candidate capable of uniting both parties, and he likes that he's a local.

“That definitely adds to it,” Fazio said. “Us Pittsburghers, we love our natives.”

That includes Stowe Township resident Amy Egyed, 59, who said she graduated from Sto-Rox High School in 1974, a few years after Kasich. She waited outside the restaurant with her high school yearbook for Kasich to sign.

Egyed, a self-described "life-long Democrat," said she switched her registration to Republican just so she could vote for her town’s native son.

“I can remember when there were businesses on both sides of the street, up and down Chartiers Avenue, and I know he’ll bring that back,” she said.

Donna Smith, 59, of Brentwood stepped outside her office at nearby BNY Mellon. Smith, a registered Democrat, said she's tried to see as many candidates as possible to make a more personal, informed decision in the general election.

“Because eventually we’re going to vote for somebody in November, and I’d like to vote for the best-qualified person,” she said.

Allegheny County police officer and Bethel Park Republican Scott Moffat said his two daughters, ages 9 and 7, each decided to support Kasich on her own. With his infant son Grayson strapped to his chest, Moffat snapped a selfie with his family’s favorite candidate.

“(My daughters) agree with his policies as much as I do, as much as a 7 and 9 year old can, so they made pictures for him and they wanted to see if I could hand them to him," Moffat said. "Luckily, he was able to take them and get a picture, too.”

Kasich supporters opened a campaign office near Settler’s Cabin Park on Saturday.

His campaign representatives said Tuesday that the Ohio governor is likely to return to Pittsburgh before the Pennsylvania primary on April 26.

90.5 WESA reporter Noah Brode contributed to this report.