Former Sen. Rod Grams dies at age 65, remembered for his service, dedication

by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter

Former Republican U.S. Sen. Rod Grams has died.

Grams had been battling cancer and recently entered hospice care at his farm near Crown. He died late in the evening Tuesday, Oct. 8.

Former Republican U.S. Sen. Rod Grams died Tuesday, Oct. 8, after a battle with cancer. Grams served both in the U.S. Senate and and as 6th District Congressman. (Photo by T.W. Budig)
Former Republican U.S. Sen. Rod Grams died Tuesday, Oct. 8, after a battle with cancer. Grams served both in the U.S. Senate and and as 6th District Congressman. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

Talking about his illness on Sept. 7, Grams, 65, had expressed a sense of peace.

“I’m real confident where I am in my faith,” Grams had said. “My last breath here, my next breath will be in heaven.”

In a statement Rep. Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, called Grams “one of the most thoughtful, principled and kind-hearted public servants the state of Minnesota has ever known.”

Zellers, a gubernatorial candidate, worked for Grams during the senator’s six years in the U.S. Senate.

Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson on Facebook spoke of Grams as plainspoken.

“Rod was one of those special politicians who always told you exactly what he was thinking – not a lot of word-parsing or blurry lines. It sometimes cost him politically, but it was one of those things about him that I admired the most,” Johnson, also a gubernatorial candidate, said.

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, also issued a statement about Grams.

“Sen. Grams was not just a friend and neighbor, but he was a dedicated public servant that will be greatly missed in Minnesota. He was a strong leader for our state, and a mentor to me and many other candidates, legislators and public officials over the years,” Daudt said.

Democrats, too, had kind words for Grams.

Minnesotans are saddened to hear of the death of Grams, DFL state party Chairman Ken Martin said in a statement.

“Sen. Grams exemplifies how in Minnesota, people from humble beginnings can step up, get involved in politics and make a difference. He will be remembered for his years of service to our state,” Martin said.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Grams devoted his life to Minnesota.

“From his time as a broadcaster to his service in the Senate, Rod remained humble and committed to serving his community and state. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones, and I know he will be missed,” she said in a statement.

A longtime anchor for KMSP-TV in the Twin Cities, Grams, goaded by what he perceived as overreaching government, entered politics and defeated 6th Congressional District Democratic Congressman Gerry Sikorski in 1992. Two years later, Grams ran for the U.S. Senate, winning again.

Current Gov. Mark Dayton defeated Grams in his 2000 U.S. Senate re-election bid. Grams ran for the U.S. House in the 8th Congressional District in 2006, but was not elected.

“Minnesota mourns the passing of former United States Congressman and Sen. Rod Grams. Sen. 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.

“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,” he added.


Tim Budig can be reached at [email protected]

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