The former television newsman was elected to the House in 1992 and served one term before being elected to the Senate in 1994. He returned home to Minnesota in 2001, after losing his re-election bid to Democrat Mark Dayton, who is now governor.
During a June interview with CQ Roll Call, Grams talked about the hourlong talk radio segment he hosted on Little Falls Radio, a local station he owned.
“It’s just a lot of fun. I kind of rant and rave a little bit now and then,” he said in the interview. “Being a conservative Republican, I’ve got a slant to my perspective.”
Kaiser told CQ Roll Call last month that Grams left the radio show earlier in the summer to return to the family farmstead for his hospice care.
“His was the story of an ordinary guy coming to Congress,” Kaiser said at the time. He added that Grams was a “calming influence” in the Washington debate and worked well even with political opposites, such as his Minnesota counterpart, the late Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone.
“Whenever you talked to him, you knew exactly where he was coming from. You could talk to him about the opposing view and he was always amiable,” Kaiser said.
Grams’ proudest policy achievement was the $500-per-child tax credit included in the Republican “Contract With America,” Kaiser said.
“I think that there are a lot of politicians that probably would have insisted their name be on something like that ... but, I think it sort of speaks to Rod’s style as being a workhorse not a showhorse,” Kaiser said.
The conservative Republican’s personal legacy will probably be built on his amicable approach to his colleagues, no matter their political perspective.
Grams would “reach across the aisle and be friends with somebody even if they disagreed,” Kaiser said. More recently, he talked about how he was seeing much less friendliness on Capitol Hill today.
Kaiser said Grams was determined to spend his last days at home, and he did. He is survived by his mother, who is a neighbor. “It’s pretty tough on the family,” he said, mentioning that some of the grandchildren who are now full-grown had once rollerbladed in parades for Grams’ campaigns.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been made, but the family is asking that memorials to honor his legacy be sent to the Crown Christian School in St. Francis, Minn.