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Jack Kemp endorses Ryan for U.S. Senate

February 8, 2004

BY DAN ROZEK Staff Reporter

Former GOP senator and pro quarterback Jack Kemp threw his endorsement Saturday to Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jack Ryan, then tossed souvenir footballs to fire up an enthusiastic group of Ryan backers gathered in Lincoln Park.

Kemp, the Republican vice presidential nominee in 1996, praised Ryan as a candidate who will shake up the GOP by reaching out to urban and minority voters often overlooked by other Republicans.

"We have a guy who's a super candidate. He can light a fire under the Republican Party,'' said Kemp, who also was to attend a Ryan fund-raiser Saturday.

Ryan, a former investment banker who later taught at Hales Franciscan High School on the South Side, is one of six Republicans seeking the party's nomination to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald.

Kemp, who wrote key tax reform legislation in the 1980s and later served as secretary of Housing and Urban Development, said he and Ryan agree on the use of free-market incentives and cuts in capital gains taxes to help spur economic development.

They also share the philosophy of seeking out voters in urban areas where Republican candidates have not fared well traditionally.

"A party has to represent the whole country,'' Kemp said, adding, "It's a disgrace the Republican Party gets only 8 percent of the black vote.''

Calling Ryan's decision to trade banking for teaching at Hales "a fabulous idea," Kemp said Ryan can appeal to voters across ethnic and political lines.

"I can't think of a better way of serving the country than having Jack Ryan in the Senate,'' Kemp said.

Ryan called Kemp "a giant'' in the Republican Party and said his endorsement will help him in the crowded GOP field.

Ryan said he intends to continue working aggressively to woo Chicago voters who might not have voted Republican before.

"We're competing for those votes the Democrats think they own,'' Ryan said. "We think our ideas are better ideas. It's hard, but we're trying.''

Supporters at the 43rd Ward Republican headquarters chanted, "Jack, Jack, Jack,'' as Ryan and Kemp arrived.

Kemp later tossed several small footballs emblazoned with Ryan stickers to some of those in the room.


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