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Part-time resident Jack Kemp will be missed in the Vail Valley

Former congressman Jack Kemp. 

Part-time resident Jack Kemp will be missed in the Vail Valley

Charitable work, moderate social views made the former QB a winner in many circles
By David O. Williams

May 4, 2009 —  The Vail Valley lost a good friend when part-time resident Jack Kemp died of cancer Saturday at his home in Bethesda, Md. And the Republican Party lost another moderate voice on some issues.

For years the former pro football player for the Buffalo Bills and nine-term congressman from New York was a fixture in Vail, skiing and attending a wide range of charitable events, but what I’ll remember best was that he was respected by people in both parties.

An arch fiscal conservative who relentlessly championed tax cuts and pioneered supply-side economics during the Reagan administration, Kemp was also a bleeding-heart conservative who favored immigration reform, improved civil rights and economic reforms to lift up inner-city areas. He was HUD secretary under the first President Bush.

Kemp unsuccessfully ran for president in 1988 and vice president on Bob Dole’s ticket in 1996. He was the kind of Republican some Democrats could vote for – a man with a true maverick streak like John McCain before the Arizona senator embraced the right wing of his party by picking Sarah Palin as a running mate.

Increasingly, moderates and mavericks aren’t welcome in the GOP (witness the recent defection of Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter to the Democrats). And former Western Slope congressman Scott McInnis, dubbed by some a moderate, recently got ambushed by the right wing of the Colorado GOP for bucking his party prior to last November’s election (see my previous blog post).

The local Republican Party, in my opinion (not that they seek my advice), erred in going with two more conservative county commissioner candidates last November, all but guaranteeing a Democrat sweep when they easily could have claimed at least one seat.

In general, I hate to see the extremists in either party take over. Kemp was a man who seemed to understand the need to reach across the aisle and make things happen. He’ll be missed in Vail.



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