Jack French Kemp


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(b. Los Angeles, 13 July 1935; d. Bethesda, Maryland, 2 May 2009)

US; member of the US House of Representatives 1971–89, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development 1989–93, Republican vice-presidential candidate 1996 Jack Kemp was educated at Occidental College, at the University of California at Long Beach, and at Western University. Before entering politics he was a professional footballer, playing quarterback for the San Diego Chargers and the Buffalo Bills.

After a period working for the Reagan gubernatorial campaign in California in 1966 and as special assistant to Reagan when he was Governor, Kemp in 1969 worked for the chairman of the Republican National Committee. In 1970 Kemp was elected to the House of Representatives for the 38th District of New York and served there until 1989.

In Congress Kemp became increasingly interested in economic ideas and was a keen supporter of supply-side economics and especially of large cuts in direct taxes which, he argued, would pay for themselves as well as an advocate of deregulation and enterprise zones. In 1978, together with Senator Roth of Delaware, Kemp sponsored a 30 per cent across the board tax cut which was in large part enacted in the 1981 Reagan budget. Kemp's vigorous promotion of supply-side economics made him a well-known, if controversial politician, and earned him a popular following among the Republican rank and file. On cultural issues, however, Kemp was highly conservative and was a strong opponent of abortion rights. Despite his preference for ideas over pragmatic institutional politics, Kemp was elected Republican conference chairman in 1981.

In 1988 Kemp made a brief bid for the Republican presidential nomination. He was unsuccessful but in 1989 George Bush appointed him to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development when he formed his administration. He was not altogether successful in this role and was perceived by many as a maverick rather than a collegial member of the administration.

The selection of Kemp as Robert Dole's running mate in 1996 was thus something of a surprise, not least because Kemp and Dole had had policy disagreements in the past and had been political rivals in 1988. Dole had generally been sceptical about massive tax cuts preferring to emphasize deficit reduction but the electoral dynamics of 1996 converted Dole to the merits of tax cuts. In this context Kemp was an ideal vice-presidential choice. He symbolized vigorous tax cuts and was able to generate enthusiasm among Republican activists. Kemp was well known nationally because of his football career; and it was hoped that Kemp's energetic style and manner would balance Dole's age. Dole may also have hoped that Kemp would lure Democrats and uncommitted voters into the Republican camp. In the event the Dole-Kemp ticket was decisively defeated by President Clinton and his running mate Al Gore. Since then Kemp has worked as a political commentator. In 2006 he, together with former Democratic Party presidential candidate John Edwards, produced the document ‘Russia's Wrong Direction: What the United States can and should do’, which was the report of an independent think tank they had co-chaired.


Subjects: Politics.

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