Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country we bring you the unmissable quotes from political conversations on WNYC. On today's Brian Lehrer Show, newly elected Congressman Michael Grimm talks about his life before politics and what he plans to do in Washington with his newly won Congressional seat.
Michael Grimm has won back a Congressional seat for Republicans in New York's 13th district after defeating his Democratic opponent, Michael McMahon — and it's the only seat they have in the five boroughs. When he takes office, Grimm will be the sole Republican in the city's delegation.
Before McMahon took office in 2008, there had been nearly three decades of Republicans in the 13th district seat, which includes Staten Island and part of Brooklyn.
Grimm is new to politics, and this was one of the key messages in his campaign. Before running for Congress, he was a marine, a restaurant owner and an FBI agent. Grimm says he was the first and only undercover FBI agent to successfully infiltrate Wall Street and says this experience has given him a valuable perspective on the financial industry:
We have a lot of rules and regulations. We don't have a good track record of properly enforcing those rules and regulations so I see an enforcement issue and not so much a regulation issue and I think the over-regulating is counterproductive.
During the campaign, Grimm attracted Tea Party support, but he was careful not to allign himself too much with them, saying his candidacy included a broad spectrum of voters. He's not sure if he would join a formal Tea party caucus, but he does have a caucus idea of his own:
One of the things I would like to do is put together all the prior military and former law enforcement individuals that are members of Congress and start my own caucus. I think there's a commonality there. When someone has been down-range, so to speak, or to go through a door knowing that someone is on the other side with a weapon, it's a different perspective...In a world of global terrorism, I think that's important.
Though, he went on to say, he doesn't want a caucus of all the same views:
We want the different views that make up, certainly my district, but also of this country. This is a very diverse country. We need to do a better job of getting those views to come together.
Off all the jobs Grimm has had, he says running a business was the most challenging and it's one of the reasons he ran for Congress:
It gave me a profound respect and a much more indepth understanding of how hard it is to do business. I saw this pattern of anti-business, demonizing those entrepreneurs and innovators that go out and create the jobs and I think that's arguablely one of the biggest jobs we're going to have in Congress, is to reverse this pattern and make the United States a more business friendly environment.
Though Grimm's business was a health food restaurant, he says he hasn't been eating too healthy lately. He "lived on pizza and donuts" during a hectic campaign and is looking forward to returning to a healthy diet again soon.