Bush surprised Kemp by offering him a Cabinet post, albeit a relatively minor one as secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Calling himself a "bleeding-heart conservative," Kemp traveled the country offering a gospel of economic empowerment. Taking over an agency beset by scandal during the Reagan years, Kemp instituted reforms, encouraged urban renewal and espoused tenant ownership of public housing projects.
After leaving government, Kemp continued to go his own political way. In 1994, he stunned California Republicans, including Gov. Pete Wilson, by denouncing Proposition 187, the ballot initiative that Wilson supported to cut off most public services to illegal immigrants, as a threat to civil liberties, racial harmony and "the soul of the Republican Party."
But in 1996, Dole selected Kemp as his running mate, surprising political observers. The choice was celebrated by party conservatives, with then-Speaker Gingrich calling Kemp "fabulous." The selection was also praised by some party moderates because of Kemp's reputation as an advocate for broadening the GOP's appeal to minorities and because of his proven electoral appeal to blue-collar Democrats.
In the end, however, Kemp's presence failed to increase the Republican ticket's ability to attract centrist voters or trigger a measurable defection among Democrats, allowing President Clinton to win reelection handily.
Kemp began writing a syndicated column in 2000 and a year later formed the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies to "counter the terrorist propaganda efforts," according to his biography on the website of Kemp Partners, a consulting firm he founded.
In 2005 he co-chaired the Council on Foreign Relations' Russia Task Force and in 2007 he co-chaired the Lincoln Bicentennial Cabinet. That same year the Jack F. Kemp Institute for Political Economy was launched as part of Pepperdine University's School of Public Policy. The Malibu university has established a special collection of Kemp's papers from his time in Congress, as HUD secretary and after.
"He took ideas seriously and believed very strongly that ideas were the raw materials of laws," Feulner said, "and that's why he tried so hard to move ideas along."