Former U.S. representative and senator Rod Grams, who rose to politics after years as a television anchor, died on Tuesday at the age of 65.
Grams, who suffered from cancer, had been in hospice care at his home in Crown, Minnesota for the last several weeks. “Senator Rod Grams passed away at 11:45 last night, at home in Crown MN, wife, Chris, at his side,” Kent Kaiser, a family spokesman, tweeted Wednesday morning.
Politicos of all stripes were quick to mourn the passing of Grams, including Maple Grove Republican state Rep. Kurt Zellers, who got his start in politics working in Grams’ office. Zellers is now running for governor.
“Senator Grams was one of the most thoughtful, principled and kindhearted public servants the state of Minnesota has ever known,” Zellers said. “I was honored to have the opportunity to work with Rod during his time in the Senate. He conducted himself with class and respect for both allies and opponents. After his time in elected office, he re-engaged in broadcasting and his community. His is a legacy of significant public and private service to the state and nation he deeply loved.”
DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said “Minnesotans are saddened” by his passing. “Sen. Grams exemplifies how in Minnesota, people from humble beginnings can step up, get involved in politics and make a difference,” he said in a statement. “He will be remembered for his years of service to our state.”
Grams spent years as an anchor at KMSP-TV before entering politics. In 1992 he challenged Democratic Rep. Gerry Sikorski for his seat in the 6th Congressional District. Two years later, U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger retired from the U.S. Senate, and Grams jumped at the opportunity, beating Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley and Democrat Ann Wynia in the race. Six years later, Grams was ousted from the Senate by now-Gov. Mark Dayton.
“Senator Grams served our state with great distinction, as a member of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate,” Dayton said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “After his return to Minnesota, he continued to be active and influential in civic and political affairs, right up to the end of his life. On behalf of our state’s grateful citizens, I extend my deepest sympathies to the Senator’s family and friends.”
Grams stayed active in politics after his time in the Senate, running an unsuccessful bid for the 8th Congressional District against Jim Oberstar and most recently serving as a co-chair of U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden‘s campagin.
“Senator Grams focused his time in Washington on the size and scope of the federal government and will be remembered for his principled stands on the issues facing Congress throughout the 1990s. But he will also be remembered for his pleasant smile and easy going demeanor that allowed him to work with people on both sides of the political spectrum for the good of Minnesota and the country,” GOP Party Chairman Keith Downey said in a statement. “Grams was a true friend of the Republican Party of Minnesota and never turned down a request from a candidate to help their campaign.”
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt lives on a farm one mile from Grams’ home in Crown. “Senator Grams was not just a friend and neighbor, but he was a dedicated public servant that will be greatly missed in Minnesota,” Daudt said in a statement. “He was a strong leader for our state, and a mentor to me and many other candidates, legislators and public officials over the years.”