POD Jack Kemp decides to move back to California after retiring from football.
Jack Kemp announces his candidacy for the California 34th Congressional District. He wins the Republican primary by a two-to-one margin over William Teague and prepares for the fall campaign against Democrat Congressman Richard Hanna.
Running as a compassionate conservative reaching out to Hispanics and Blacks, Kemp defeats Hanna 103,167 to 93,664 votes.
In Congress, Kemp establishes a reputation as a solid Goldwater-conservative.
In November 1972, Kemp wins a second term in a rematch with Hanna 121,376 to 75,082.
In his second term in Congress, Kemp becomes a leading champion of supply-side economics and a defender of the Nixon presidency. Many Republicans including Ronald Ronald encourage Kemp to run for the Senate against Alan Cranston, Kemp however declines to run for Senate that year.
In November 1974, Kemp won a third term 98,321 to 65,971 over Democrat Mark Hannaford.
Kemp didn't spend much of his third term in Congress in Washington. After passing up a run for the Senate in 1974, Kemp announces his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat John Tunney. Kemp faces several strong candidates, S.I. Hayakawa, former Lt. Governors Robert Finch and John Harmer and Congressmen Alphonzo Bell. Kemp won the primary by only 9,732 votes out of 2,443,821 votes cast. That November, Kemp pulled an surprise upset over Tunney by more than 750,000 votes.
In the Senate, Kemp continued to be a strong voice for conservative principles. In 1979, there was speculation that Kemp might run for president if Ronald Reagan didn't. When Reagan announced however, Kemp was the first to support him and served as his campaign co-chair.
With the Republican takeover of the Senate in 1981, Kemp became Chairman of the Republican Senate Conference. Kemp led the battle for tax reduction which led to the Kemp-Roth Tax Cut Act.
There was speculation that Kemp might run for Governor of California in 1982. Kemp, however, decided to remain in the Senate and endorsed Mike Curb for governor. After easily defeating Pete McCloskey in the Republican primary, Kemp won re-election over Democrat Jerry Brown by more than 1,000,000 votes.
In the 1984 Senate elections, Kemp was instrumental in winning key races in IL (Chuck Percy), MI (Jack Lousma), and WV (John Raese).
In 1985, Howard Baker retired and the post of Senate Majority Leader became available. The candidates for the post were Kemp, Bob Dole, Pete Domenici, Dick Luger, and Ted Stevens. Kemp was supported by Barry Goldwater and Jesse Helms and won the race on the third ballot.
In 1986, thanks to Kemp's hard work and campaigning, the Republicans retained control of the Senate with victories in AL (Jeremiah Denton), CA (Bruce Herschensohn), CO (Ken Kramer), NC (Jim Broyhill), and ND (Mark Andrews).
Thanks to Kemp's efforts, The Iran-Contra Affair was put to rest much sooner and Robert Bork was confirmed to the Supreme Court 51-49. Kemp was seen as the leading alternative candidate to Vice President George Bush for the 1988 Republican nomination. Although eight candidates entered the race, Kemp was the main challenger for the nomination against Bush. Kemp won the Iowa straw poll over Pat Robertson and went on to win the the caucus by 12 points over Bush. After narrowly losing New Hampshire (Bush: 39% Kemp: 35%) Kemp won South Dakota and South Carolina. On Super Tuesday, Kemp made a clean sweep in the South and West and after winning the Illinois primary by nine points was seen as the nominee. Bush dropped out after Illinois in the name of party unity (Bush's later appointment as Secretary of State in Kemp's administration was seen by many as pay back from Kemp to Bush).
Kemp's potential running mates included Bob Dole, Dick Luger, Al Haig, and Dan Quayle, in the end, Kemp picked a surprise VP in Alabama Senator Jeremiah Denton. Kemp's speech at the Republican convention was well received and he took the lead in the polls against his Democrat opponent Mike Dukakis.
The three presidential debates showed Kemp to be a far better candidate and debater than Dukakis and on election day Kemp/Dole beat Dukakis/Bentsen by ten million votes and a landslide in the electoral college. The Republicans also made gains in the House and Senate.