Kasich joined Bentley at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in Birmingham, where the two traded autographed footballs after the announcement. Bentley said the venue celebrates grit, hard work and skill — all of which he sees in Kasich.
“I have watched him over the years, and I chose him because of his heart,” Bentley said. The governor called to offer Kasich support after seeing him in a recent debate.
Bentley is the first Deep South governor to endorse Kasich, who is generally viewed as among the more moderate Republican contenders in a crowded field. Bentley was a convention delegate for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in 2008 and said this is the first time he has publicly endorsed a presidential candidate.
Kasich, who was in Congress 18 years before being sworn in as governor in 2011, also is among the lesser-known Republican candidates. A strong performance during the first debate produced signs of momentum.
Kasich said that because of Ohio’s financial situation, he didn’t spend much time building broader name recognition and he thinks Bentley’s endorsement will go a long way.
“It sends a signal in the South,” Kasich said before pledging to return to Alabama. “It makes a big difference. Think of us as the engine that could.”
Kasich said Bentley’s endorsement is meaningful because he has made Alabama’s state government more efficient and isn’t afraid to lead.
Alabama faces a $200 million budget shortfall that lawmakers will again work to resolve during a second special session. Bentley was in Birmingham last week to rally support for proposals to use new taxes to fill the gap rather than cut state services — a measure many Republican lawmakers have opposed.
Kasich said he has worked with people he doesn’t agree with to balance budgets, find solutions to address debts and more. Bentley said he supports Kasich because he believes the two have similar leadership styles.
Republished with permission of The Associated Press.