[Artwork by KEITH TUCKER]
ALAN GRAYSON: I’m in. I’m running for Congress. I’m running because I promised Charlaina and Rick that I would. Charlaina called me a few weeks ago, from the hospital. She told me that her husband, Rick, was suffering from multiple organ failure – lungs, kidneys and liver. Rick was 56 years old. That’s three years older than me. Rick was a veteran. But the Veterans Administration wasn’t covering his hospital bills. Rick had had a bad liver since he was 30, when he contracted hepatitis. No insurance company would go near him. Every day Rick survived, his family owed several thousand dollars more to hospitals and doctors. And they had no way to pay it. I told Charlaina how sorry I was. And I told her that I wasn’t in Congress anymore, so I wasn’t sure how I could help. She said: “You can run again. You are the only person who ever cared about people like us. Rick wants people in Congress who can’t be bought and sold. Rick wants you to run again.” A dying man wants me to run for Congress. What exactly could I say? I promised that I would run. Rick died on June 30, 2011, at 5:55 p.m. I’m keeping my promise. I’m in. For the four million people in Florida who can’t see a doctor when they are sick, and the fifty million nationwide, I’m in. For the 70% of all homeowners in Orlando who owe more than they own on their home, and the 25% nationwide who are “underwater,” and feel like they are drowning, I’m in. For the six million Americans who haven’t worked in six months and are seeing their benefits running out, for the eight million more who are unemployed, and for the eight million on top of that who can find only part-time work, I’m in. For the millions of parents who have absolutely no idea how to pay for a college education for their children, I’m in. And for everyone who is appalled by the prospect that we may cut Social Security and Medicare benefits as we spend more than $150 billion a year on three unnecessary wars and almost $100 billion a year on the Bush tax cuts for the rich, I’m in. I’m in. And I’m going to need your help. Are you in? MORE
MOTHER JONES: Even before he called Dick Cheney a blood-sucking vampire, or a female ex-Enron lobbyist who now works for Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke a “K Street whore,” Rep. Alan Grayson stuck out on Capitol Hill. The hulking 6’4″ freshman Democrat from central Florida sports garish shirts and ties beneath his dark suits, wears pull-up Italian boots, and approaches his job with the earnestness of an 18-year-old campaign volunteer. Grayson says he wants Americans to pay attention to “what’s really at stake” as opposed to “the minutiae” of politics. To that end, he has been trying something new, and perhaps foolhardy: saying pretty much whatever he feels like and not worrying how people react.
Being unapologetically outspoken has earned Grayson a great deal of attention. In a speech on the House floor this past September, he summed up the Republicans’ health care plan as “die quickly.” Even after spending the final weeks of summer talking about “death panels,” conservatives demanded an apology; pundits likened Grayson to Rep. Joe “You Lie!” Wilson, and the National Republican Congressional Committee branded him “DisGrayson.” But instead of backing down, Grayson went all-in, saying that he’d “like to apologize to the dead”—the more than 44,000 Americans who die every year because they have no health insurance.
Grayson grew up in a Bronx tenement, holds degrees in law and public policy from Harvard, and lives in a 12-room Orlando house with his wife and five children. Politics is something like his fifth career. He worked his way through college as a night watchman and a janitor, became an economist, and then a lawyer. In the early 1990s he briefly left law to become the president of a telecom firm. Selling his stake and investing the proceeds helped make him the 12th-richest member of Congress.) Between the beginning of the Iraq War and his election to Congress, he drew attention for suing military contractors who perpetrated what he calls “the crime of the century” by massively overcharging the government for their services in Iraq. In 2006, he ran for Congress and lost in the Democratic primary. Two years later, he beat a four-term Republican incumbent who broke a pledge to not run again. MORE