When asked his position on D.C. voting rights, Republican presidential contender John Kasich didn’t pretend to draw on any constitutional clause or existing law to explain his stance against it.
Instead, the Ohio governor stated the political reason that many already perceive as the biggest obstacle standing between D.C. and congressional voting representation: Giving D.C. voting representatives in Congress would mean more Democrats in Congress.
“What it really gets down to if you want to be honest is because they know that’s just more votes in the Democratic Party,” Kasich said Wednesday during an interview with The Washington Post editorial board.
The District is overwhelmingly Democratic, and its current non-voting representative, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, is an outspoken liberal. Still, Kasich’s blunt answer — rather than the position itself — is a bit surprising for a candidate who has bashed his party for not being open to ideas and being “knee-jerk” against most things.
Here’s the full transcript of the exchange between Kasich and Jo-Ann Armao, the Post’s associate editorial page editor.
ARMAO: What about voting rights in Congress, voting representatives?
KASICH: Probably not. I don’t know. I’d have to, I mean, to me, that’s just, I just don’t see that we really need that, okay? I don’t know. I don’t think so.
ARMAO: But you realize though that people in D.C. pay taxes, go to war and they have no vote in Congress.
ARMAO: How is that —
KASICH: Well look, I am not — I don’t — I am not, because you know what, what it really gets down to if you want to be honest is because they know that’s just more votes in the Democratic Party. That’s what —
When pressed further, Kasich did eventually concede that he didn’t have a strong argument against D.C. voting representation and would ultimately be open to the idea as president. (He flatly stated he was against D.C. statehood.)
“Maybe I’ll have to flip flop my position, okay? I don’t know. Let me look at it. Let me think about it,” he said. “I mean that’s a good point. It’s kind of hard for me to argue against it. I’d have to hear what the argument is.”
Here’s the full part of that exchange, which also included editorial writers Ruth Marcus and Lee Hockstader:
KASICH: Now let’s go to this whole thing of D.C. voting rights, okay? I don’t know. I’d have to look at it. I’ll look at your editorials, whatever. Fair is fair. You’ve got a point there.
It’s like with, you know, being a leader, an executive of a big state: Pick your battles, pick your battles. And sometimes, you know what you do as a leader? You go, you call people, and you say, “Don’t pass that. Don’t move that bill. Don’t do that, because I’m going to have to veto it. So don’t do it.”
Or, if I’m going to do an executive order, the dirty little secret on the order is you call up the legislative leaders. You say, look — I’ll give you a perfect example. It was on the issue of autism.
I said, “You guys have been fumbling around with this bill. I can take care of this in one fell swoop. What do you say?”
“Well,” one said, “I don’t know, my caucus…”
I said, “Check your caucus.” Comes back, we do it. Done. Okay?
It’s, you know, and I think the breakdown here probably for longer than the last seven years has been an inability to understand how that place works, an inability to show respect, an inability to include people. I am not telling you I got —
MARCUS: Are there people who should be included, or are citizens of the District of Columbia who do not have, who pay the same taxes as —
KASICH: Yeah, I don’t know. Ruth, I have to see why, maybe I’ll have to flip flop my position, okay? I don’t know. Let me look at it. Let me think about it.
It’s just we’re not — I mean, that’s a good point. It’s kind of hard for me to argue against it. I’d have to hear what the argument is. I’ll call my friend [former Virginia congressman] Tom Davis. He’ll tell me the way to think about this.
MARCUS: I think you identified the argument.
ARMAO: He was for voting rights.
KASICH: Was he? I’ll call him, I’ll ask him.
HOCKSTADER: He suggested a[n additional] seat in Utah to balance the —
Last month, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump met with The Washington Post editorial board and, when asked about D.C. voting representation, said: “I think that’s something that would be okay. Having representation would be okay.”