Remembering Pat Grayby Senator Claire McCaskill
Posted on 2015-01-20
McCASKILL. Mr. President, people who work in politics sometimes
suffer a bad image. People who run for office, obviously, sometimes
suffer a bad image. But sometimes even worse is the image that what we
call the political handlers have--those people who have made a career
of professionally helping people get elected. They are seen as
ruthless, as hired guns, as aggressive, even soulless, unprincipled. I
am here to talk about one of those political operatives, but this
political operative was special. This political operative was my
friend. He was principled, he was brave, but most of all he was a
patriot. Pat Gray passed away very recently and he will be missed.
Pat grew up in Oklahoma. After serving 4 years in the Navy, he moved to Kansas City where he took a job with the Kansas City Power and Light Company. He also became very active in the Jaycees. He found that work as part of the Jaycee organization was exhilarating. He had his first taste of working on campaigns to improve the community and he was hooked.
Very quickly he moved into advertising. That advertising job then morphed into working on political campaigns. Pat made his bones in 1982 as a political consultant when he took on the city incumbent county executive in Jackson County, MO. Jackson County is the county where the person who used to have this desk is from, Harry Truman. Jackson County is the county that contains Kansas City.
It was then and still is a place where Democrats do well. So for Pat Gray to take on a candidate to be a sitting incumbent county executive was quite brave because, as I am sure the Presiding Officer understands, politics is rough locally. When someone takes on a powerful person in the predominating party in a community, there is usually a price to pay, but Pat was not deterred. His candidate, Bill Waris, beat that sitting county executive, Dale Baumgardner, in 1982.
The following year Pat was hired in an important mayoral campaign where he was also successful, electing the Kansas City mayor. Pat was low key, but he was aggressive. Pat had little ego but lots of laser- like strategy. He was very easy going, but he was very hard on his opponents. As one Kansas Citian put it after Pat had passed away: Pat slid into second with his spikes in the air. So you either had to make a very good throw or get out of the way.
That was his style, very hands-on. He wanted to win badly. Pat was instrumental in electing the first woman as Jackson County executive, the first woman as Jackson County prosecutor--my campaign for that office in 1992--and the first woman as mayor of Kansas City.
He helped to elect mayors, legislators, city council members, too many for me to name, too many campaigns, too many candidates. Nine out of ten times he was successful. He helped me throughout my career. I remember vividly in 1990, when I was running for the county legislature, his coming to my home in Coleman Highlands with a camera and shooting a commercial with me sitting on my living room couch, just the two of us. He became a trusted advisor and my dear friend until his death.
As I stand at the very desk Harry Truman used in the Senate, I stand here in part because of his help and his loyalty. I will be reaching for the phone to call Pat Gray countless times in the coming years. While he helped many candidates, including me, it was on community issues that his record was particularly impressive. The e-tax renewal in Kansas City, which many thought had no chance, Pat successfully steered; the renewal and invigoration of our sports complex in Kansas City, the home of the division champion Kansas City Royals and our Kansas City Chiefs. Pat Gray strategized a brilliant campaign to revitalize downtown Kansas City through the building of a major sports arena, which has now resulted in blocks and blocks of revitalization. In fact, real estate in Kansas City--residential real estate in downtown Kansas City--is now a hot ticket in large part because of Pat Gray; the very first area transportation tax, which gave a lifeline to thousands of Kansas Citians in the urban center, allowing them to find that way to get to work; a property tax for indigent care at Truman Medical Center.
Can you imagine anything that might be more difficult to pass? Asking people to pay more property taxes to help care for the poor who were turning up in the emergency room at our major local hospital, Pat Gray did that; additional tax moneys for both police and [[Page S253]] fire and an issue very near and dear to my heart. He helped me renew the community antidrug tax in Kansas City, which has been so instrumental in doing research and development on the antidrug strategies that work--not just more police, not just more prosecutors, not just more jail space but also prevention and treatment. Pat Gray was there helping me as we started one of the very first drug courts in the country in Kansas City, as a result of his help with the COMBAT tax initiative.
Pat adored his family. His wife Brenda always patient and smiling, he really adored Brenda. She climbed into the roller coaster with Pat Gray in the late 1970s. While she had to hold on hard during part of the ride, there was never any question that they were a team and she was his rock.
His children, Christopher, Donna, and Lauren, he was their guiding light and they were his pride and joy. Pat loved this country. He loved his family. He loved his city. He loved his friends and he loved his work. But most of all, he loved this country.
Pat's biggest secret, as a sometimes rough-and-tumble political brawler: he was an idealist who was inspired every day by our grand and glorious democracy. He had deep respect for the system he worked within. He understood that in America a good idea is sometimes enough; a good idea helped along by a professional consultant who was a patriot.
We will miss you, Pat Gray. We will miss you, Pat Gray, the patriot.
I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.