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Former U.S. Sen. Rod Grams dies of cancer at age 65

Grams served one term in the U.S. House and one in the Senate after a career in television news.

In a photo from 1997, American ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson, left, and U.S. Senator Rod Grams discuss the United States' debt to the United Nations at a June news conference.

Rod Grams, the Minnesota news anchorman who went on to serve in the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate, died Tuesday of cancer. He was 65.

Grams had entered hospice care at his home in early September.

Even in his last weeks he was active politically, and wrote a fundraising letter for Empower Minnesota, a super PAC that was formed in 2012 to raise money for Minnesota Republican congressional candidates.

State Rep. Kurt Zellers,  a Republican from Maple Grove who’s running for governor next year, said:

“Senator Grams was one of the most thoughtful, principled and kind-hearted public servants the State of Minnesota has ever known … He conducted himself with class and respect for both allies and opponents. After his time in elected office, he reengaged in broadcasting and his community. His is a legacy of significant public and private service to the state and nation he deeply loved.”

State House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt said:

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“Senator 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.”

Minnesota DFL Chair Ken Martin said:

“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.”

And Pete Dross, director of policy and development for the Center for Victims of Torture, located in St. Paul, added a reminder of a little-known Grams achievement:

“Senator Grams worked closely with the late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone to achieve passage of the Torture Victims Relief Act in 1998. This important legislation provides much-needed financial assistance for both domestic and international programs to treat survivors of torture.”

Grams had been an anchor at KMSP-TV news before getting into politics in the 1990s. He beat incumbent Democratic Congressman Gerry Sikorski in the 6th District race, then won the open U.S. Senate seat in 1994 when Republican Dave Durenberger didn’t seek re-election.

Six years later, Grams was defeated by Mark Dayton, who also served just one term in the Senate.

Grams and his wife, Chris, later bought radio stations in the Little Falls area.