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Democrat targeted by Tea Party speaks his mind

By Randi Kaye, CNN
Rep. Alan Grayson last year described the Republican health care plan as: "If you get sick, die quickly."
Rep. Alan Grayson last year described the Republican health care plan as: "If you get sick, die quickly."
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rep. Alan Grayson known for speaking his mind
  • Last year described Republican health care plan as: "If you get sick, die quickly"
  • Tea Party has named him as one of the top eight Democrats they want to lose
  • Grayson: "I'm speaking truth to power and that's why they want to get rid of me"

(CNN) -- Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson from Orlando, Florida, is known for speaking his mind.

It was Grayson who barreled onto the House floor last year to summarize the Republican health care plan as: "If you get sick, die quickly." It was Grayson who compared former Vice President Dick Cheney to a vampire. It was Grayson who called a lobbyist-turned-federal-reserve employee a "K Street whore."

When we asked Grayson about being referred to as "one fry short of a happy meal" he assured us he was not crazy in the truest sense of the word.

"Everybody is entitled to their opinion but I can tell you that if working hard and delivering for people is better, then that may make me crazy. If that's what it takes to call somebody crazy ... then I'm guilty as charged."

Lost in all the headlines about Grayson may be his softer side. This Bronx-born 6-foot-4-inch congressman chokes up often, especially when talking about his family.

In two interviews with CNN, he teared up more than half a dozen times. The tears came whenever he was asked about Americans who don't have health coverage, about growing up in the Bronx, New York, as a boy struggling with asthma, and more tears when Grayson spoke of his children.

Grayson has five children with his Polynesian wife, Lolita: daughters Skye,15, and Star, 11, and sons Sage, 9, and twins Stone and Storm, both 5.

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The family's favorite place to take a break from the campaign trail and just hang out, are one of the many theme parks in the Orlando area. On a recent Monday night at Universal Studios, the family grabbed dinner and took in the sights. Grayson said the hardest part about his job is leaving his family behind each week and commuting to Washington for work on Capitol Hill.

"The thrill of the 5-year-old going on his first roller coaster ride. It's indescribable. We love it and we never get tired of it. And this is actually the happiest place on earth," he said. "We could live anywhere and we chose to live here because there's so much here to enjoy -- you know fun is never more than five minutes away."

As a child himself, Grayson was a strong student. His parents were both teachers and he was accepted to the prestigious Bronx High School of Science. Next came Harvard and Harvard Law School, where Grayson worked as a night janitor to help pay for his tuition. After practicing law for years, and zeroing in on wasteful spending during the Iraq war, he decided he could have more of an impact on Capitol Hill than in the courtroom.

"I wanted to try and do what I could to end the waste and make sure that we took care of ourselves. I never could understand why it was so important to take care of the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Kurds and not people in my neighborhood, people in my community, people around the country," said Grayson.

Grayson learned early on to fight back, and fight for what is right. When he was just 11-years-old, he says a bully in the Bronx threw him under a moving bus. He pulled himself to safety. That stuck with him. It's why he speaks out today and fights for those who don't have a voice as powerful as his, he said.

"I think I'm doing my job properly," he said. "The truth hurts. I'm telling the truth. I'm speaking truth to power and that's why they want to get rid of me."

Grayson seems to have a bull's-eye on his back. The Tea Party has named him as one of the top eight Democrats they want to lose. Also, the Tea Party has plans to send hundreds of volunteers to Grayson's district in Orlando to help his Republican opponent, Dan Webster.

How does Grayson feel about being a target of special interests, the Tea Party, and Republicans?

He's just fine with it.

"It's extraordinarily important work. These decisions are decisions of life and death. It's most obvious when you're talking about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. ... It's also true when you're talking about health care and any of the other terribly important things that you work on every day I'm proud to be able to do work like this and help people in need."

Before he finished that thought, Grayson was once again wiping away tears.

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