I always find it interesting how people have different expectations of their member of Congress. They always ask me, Where's my bodyguard. Where's my big house in Washington? And, How is it that I'm driving this car? The reality is that I don't have a bodyguard. I have a little studio apartment two blocks off the Capitol, and I had the same car for about 10 years, the clunker. When I was mayor [of Union City], I used to have the car that the city gave me. Then, when I got elected to Congress 10 years ago, I bought a secondhand car -- a blue Buick. It used to leave me stranded.

I went to a Kiwanis dinner one night, and, when everyone left the dinner, it was valet parking. As the first car came up, it was a Mercedes-Benz, and everybody was like, "Wow! Look at the Mercedes." The next one was a Jaguar -- "Wow!" The next one was a Jaguar -- "Wow!" The next one was a Lincoln Continental -- "Wow!" And then came along my clunker, and they said, "Who in God's name rides that thing?" And then I walked up to it, and everybody was like, "Ooh."

Materialistic things are not important to me. I grew up poor, and, while we had food to eat, we didn't have any of the fringes in life. Everybody has different important priorities. In mine, it's getting my kids a great education. You know, I choose to use my money for them. My whole income is my congressional salary; I don't have any other sources of income, you know, so I watch it.

I chose my life, and I'm happy with it. I'm not embarrassed.

-- Interview by Cathy Areu Jones