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Grams Announces Re-election Bid
by Amy Radil
February 21, 2000
Part of MPR's Campaign 2000 coverage
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U.S. Senator Rod Gramshas officially announced, he'll seek re-election to Congress in November. Grams has been mostly in the background as nine Democrats and one Reform Party candidate announced their intentions to seek the seat he has held since 1994. Grams called supporters to his old parochial school in Crown, Minnesota. He put forward his campaign agenda and promised a high-energy race that he says will raise his profile around the state.

Rod Grams
Age: 52
Personal: Divorced. Four children.
Born: February 4, 1948, Princeton, MN.
Resides: Anoka
Occupation: Homebuilder. Was anchorman for KMSP-TV in the Twin Cities.
Education: Carroll College, Helena, MT.
Web Site:

Campaign Contributions
GRAMS' KICKOFF CAMPAIGN event left no patriotic image unturned. Veterans and babies were in attendance in the Lutheran church-school auditorium, waving flags amidst balloons and bunting. Music was supplied by no less than a men's glee choir, a band and a children's chorus.

Grams appeared relaxed and happy as he took to the podium, following introductions from his mother and his daughter. He outlined his priorities as he seeks a second term in the Senate, saying he believes most Americans share them.
Grams: We want more money in our own pockets at the end of the day and fewer dollars in the hands of the bureaucracies. We want to save Social Security for this generation and improve it for the next. We want to protect Medicare as well. We want a strong economy that creates better jobs and more of them. We want safe schools and safe neighborhoods. And we want our farmers and workers and job providers to be the most productive in the world.
But Grams' personal life, rather than his legislative agenda, has dominated recent headlines, a fact Grams seemed to allude to later in his speech. Grams' divorce and his subsequent relationship with a key staff member generated controversy. Another scandal surrounded his son, Morgan, when Grams was accused of interceding with law enforcement on behalf of his son last fall. But an investigation by law enforcement found Grams did not seek any special treatment.

Grams became emotional as he discussed his long road from the schoolhouse to the halls of Congress.
Grams: It's a road I've travelled with great humility. I've made a lot of mistakes. But I've been blessed to travel this road accompanied by and blessed by a supportive family, good friends and neighbors and the decent people I've come to know across the great state of Minnesota.
Grams told reporters he wants to run on his Congressional record, rather than slinging mud at Democratic opponents. Grams cites the $500-per-child tax credit as his proudest achievement during his first term. He says the centerpieces of this campaign will be his proposals to privatize Social Security and to abolish the Internal Revenue Service.
Grams: The next major step in putting fairness into our tax system is also to rip out the entire tax code by its roots and replace it with something fair, friendly and easy to understand.
Grams plans to introduce a bill that would replace the income tax and other federal taxes with a national sales tax of approximately 20 percent on goods and services.

Grams' agenda and his decision to seek a second term were warmly received by the audience. Mary Cralley, whose children attend Grams' old school, says he's liked both as a local son and as someone who understands their concerns.
Cralley: I think in this area people are looking for the conservative views that he has, people are pro-family here, pro-life, especially being from the church.
Despite the affectionate atmosphere, Grams and his supporters are not blase about his chances and say they know a tough race is ahead.

Political experts say Grams' seat is vulnerable. His previous wins in the House and Senate have always been narrow, with Grams receiving less than 50 percent of the vote. And recent polls show Grams has little name recognition throughout the state, a fact DFL party chair Mike Erlandson says will be of help to whoever receives the Democratic nomination.
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Erlandson: I think Rod's biggest weakness clearly is that he's been in office now as U.S. Senator for over five years, he spent two years in the House of Representatives and he really hasn't connected with voters. There's been several polls that show his name identification is very low, what he stands for is even lower and so I think one thing Minnesotans expect from their politicians is a sense that they're working hard for them in Washington, D.C., and I don't think they have that.
Even a campaign ally, former Senator Rudy Boschwitz, says Grams can't be overconfident.
Boschwitz: Well I think he's vulnerable, I think any Republican in Minnesota has to be considered vulnerable but I think he's a good campaigner and it's very uncertain what's going to happen on the other side of the aisle, so it's very undecided.
But Grams says he's ready to raise his name recognition around the state.
Grams: I can guarantee you this, Minnesotans are going to know more about me and what I have done before this campaign is over.
Grams also has greater means than any of his opponents, despite his claims that he can't outspend Democratic candidate Michael Ciresi. Grams campaign staff says he has raised $2.2 million. Ciresi's latest filing shows him with an eighth of that amount on hand.