Conservative icon Jeff Bell, a former Ronald Reagan speechwriter who toppled a four-term United States Senator in a Republican primary, died last night. He was 74.
In 1978, Bell mounted a primary challenge against Clifford Case, a liberal Republican who had spent 24 years in the Senate. The 35-year-old Bell beat Case by 3,473 votes (50.7%-49.3%). He lost the general election to former New York Knicks player Bill Bradley by a 55%-43% margin. He ran again for the Senate in 1982, but lost the Republican primary to Millicent Fenwick by a 54%-46% margin.
Bell returned to New Jersey in 2014 to challenge freshman U.S. Senator Cory Booker. He won the Republican nomination, but lost to Booker by a 56%-42% margin.
A graduate of Harvard University, Bell served in the U.S. Army and completed a tour of duty in Vietnam. He began working for Reagan in 1975, during a fight for the Republican nomination against President Gerald Ford. He was also a top advisor to Jack Kemp, who campaigned for Bell in the 1978 primary.
Bell is survived by his wife Rosalie, and four children.