It was with much sadness that I learned Jack Kemp had passed away. We all lost a great public servant. But for me, it was more. It was the passing of one of my heroes.

Someone once said to me, “Great leaders don't adhere to a party platform, they build them.” That was Jack Kemp. He never wavered from his beliefs.

Through his political life, Kemp’s positions spanned the social spectrum: He opposed abortion and supported school prayer, yet appealed to liberals with his outreach toward minorities and compassion for the poor. He pushed for immigration reform to include a guest-worker program and status for the illegal immigrants already here.

Kemp came to symbolize a blending of conservative views with a big-tent vision for party membership. You will never find a more inclusive Republican. He was the original compassionate conservative.

I have spent much of my adult life working on political campaigns. However, my first political campaign will always be Jack Kemp for President. No one can take that away from me. In high school, I worked with a group of teenagers to get the then-Congressman from Buffalo on the ballot despite New York’s arcane electoral laws. I’ve since worked on thirty-five plus campaigns ranging from Smithtown Superintendent of the Highways to President of the United States.

When Kemp was nominated as Vice President in 1996, I jumped back into campaigns and ended up in Chicago. Anne Stanley, Jack Kemp’s Political Director once said to me, “the friends you make on a campaign last forever.” Through the years, the "Kemp" friends have always taken care of me. They helped me get my first campaign job out of college. When I needed a job a few years later, they found me work. When I started Zapwater, they provided me with some much needed early business.

The Kemp friends who have looked out for me throughout the years are a reflection on the man we worked for and were inspired by. He was one of my earliest heroes and I am proud to say I worked for Jack Kemp.

Farewell Jack. You will be missed.

David Zapata