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Dick Gephardt's Biography
American politician and Congressman for nearly 30 years, Gephardt announced his second candidacy for President on February 19, 2003 in St. Louis, MO, pledging to repeal President Bush’s tax cuts in favor of financing “quality health coverage for everyone who works in America.”
In his prior bid for the White House in the 1988 election, he was the first major Democrat to officially announce his candidacy for President, declaring his intention on February 23, 1987. He withdrew from the race on March 25, 1988 after running out of money. In the 2004 race, he gained the backing of more than 10 labor unions including the Teamsters and the United Steel Workers of America. He was the first major Democrat to officially announce his candidacy for President in the 1988 election, 2/23/1987.
Dick Gephardt was the second son born to Louis Gephardt, a milk-truck driver turned real estate salesman and Loreen Cassell Gephardt, a legal secretary. Gephardt, an avid boy scout in his youth, became fascinated by politics in high school and, after graduating Northwestern University in 1962, received his J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School in 1965. He served in the Air National Guard from 1965-1971 and practiced law from 1965-1976. During this time he led various positions as precinct committeeman and alderman with no electoral losses and began his high-profile political climb with his first election to the House of Representatives in 1976.
Gephardt’s solid legislative record boasted the passing of three bills in six years. The Bradley-Gephardt bill in 1982 paved the way for federal tax reform, followed by the Kennedy-Gephardt bill in 1984 which sought to overhaul Medicare financing. Mindful of the loss of his paternal grandparents’ farm during the Great Depression, he championed the Harkin-Gephardt bill which limited crop production in the hopes of saving family farms. By 1984 Gephardt headed the House Democratic Caucus and began to regard the presidency as “something I wanted to do.” In 1986 he was reelected to the House of Representatives with 69% of the vote. He was elected to be the House Majority Leader in 1989, and House Minority Leader from 1994-2002, when he stepped down to prepare for his Presidential race.
He describes himself as a “terminal moderate.”
Gephardt married Jane Byrnes in 1966, an attractive helpmate. Their son Matthew was born in 1971, followed by two daughters born in 1973 and 1978. His wife and children say that, while he is very serious about the issues, he is a lighthearted, easy-going, fun person with a “fantastic sense of humor.” He is, by all accounts, a good father to his three children, and with his wife, spent a lot of time in the hospital with their son Matt, who had cancer as a child. The Gephardts helped set up a Ronald McDonald House in St. Louis. Daughter Chrissy, openly gay, left her job as a social worker on June 1, 2003 in order to campaign for her father, and she organized an “Ask Chrissy” column on Gephardt’s website.
Gephardt formally announced his withdrawal from his second bid for the Presidency on January 20, 2004, one day after his unexpected loss of the Iowa caucus. Gephardt had been the pollsters’ pick but last minute campaign moves by his opponents undercut the number of votes he received. He had already announced that he will not seek re-election for Representative.
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