Through the 70s and 80s, no one put the phrase “Hamburg, NY” on more lips, in more places, than Jack French Kemp.
As the Bills quarterback from 1962-1969 and as a member of Congress from 1971-1989, Kemp always listed Hamburg as his residence. As a football player, Hamburg was a football season residence. And like many congressmen through the years, the time Kemp actually spent in the district as a congressman was dwarfed by the time he spent in Washington.
The fact that he and his family actually lived in the Washington suburbs seemed to be a bigger issue for his political opponents than his constituents, who re-elected Kemp nine times.
When legendary South Buffalo Democrat James P. Keane ran against Kemp in 1986, Kemp’s residency was one of Keane’s talking points.
“He was born and raised in Southern California, and for more than a decade he’s lived in suburban Maryland. You won’t see him raking leaves in Hamburg,” Keane said in a debate.
When a Washington Post reporter asked the congressman where in Hamburg he lived, Kemp said South Lake Street. When the reporter asked which house number, Kemp had to dig into his wallet and look at his driver’s license as the reporter looked on. Kemp had purchased the house seven years earlier, and would sell it the following year.
Kemp won his final re-election bid that year with a 20% swing. He ran for the Republican nomination for President two years later in 1988.
The GOP nod, and ultimately the White House, was won by George H.W. Bush– who went on to make Kemp his Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Kemp was also the Republican candidate for Vice President on the ticket with Bob Dole in 1996.