Ex-Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel Ends Unorthodox 2020 Campaign, Endorses Bernie Sanders And Tulsi Gabbard

With a team of teens and a Twitter-based strategy, the Democrat ran to push his anti-war platform into the national spotlight.
Then-presidential hopeful Mike Gravel answers a question during a debate at Dartmouth College in September 2007.
Then-presidential hopeful Mike Gravel answers a question during a debate at Dartmouth College in September 2007.

Mike Gravel, who ran on an anti-war platform as one of the longest of long-shot candidates in a crowded 2020 Democratic primary field, has dropped out of the race and endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii).

“I’m proud and honored to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders for the presidency of the United States,” Gravel said in a video shared on Twitter Tuesday. “Bernie has a program that benefits all Americans — not just the one percent. He will be a great president for all Americans.”

He later clarified in an interview with media site Primo Nutmeg that he was endorsing both Sanders and Gabbard for the presidency and vice presidency, leaving it up to the voters to decide which position each would fill.

If you aren’t a political junkie, an avid Twitter trawler or a member of 2020 hopeful Marianne Williamson’s mailing list, this may be the first you’re hearing of the former Alaska senator and his unorthodox campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. He failed to qualify for the first debate in June, and though he met the threshold of 65,000 individual donors required to make the second debate in July, he missed the polling mark and was left offstage.

Gravel’s campaign, headed by teenagers David Oks and Henry Williams, took place almost entirely on Twitter. The pair of young political activists posted a mix of memes, progressive policy platforms and callouts of the views and voting records of fellow candidates, especially former Vice President Joe Biden. Gravel’s supporters, who enthusiastically refer to themselves as the #Gravelanche, brought him to the 65,000 unique donations that constituted one of the criteria to qualify for the early debate stage.

Some candidates who did qualify for the debate, such as former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.), did not meet the donor threshold but qualified instead by reaching 1% in three national polls approved by the Democratic National Committee. The Gravel campaign criticized the DNC for prioritizing polling numbers over donor count.

Gravel, who was persuaded to run for president by Oks and Williams, is best known for reading the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record at a subcommittee hearing in 1971. Those documents exposed lies from the White House to the public and Congress about the U.S. role in Vietnam leading up to and during the war. The then-freshman senator read 4,100 pages until past 1:00 a.m. when, with tears in his eyes and no other senators left in the room, he established unanimous consent and entered the pages into the record.

Gravel left the Senate following his defeat in the Democratic primary in 1980. He ran for president in 2008 — first as a Democrat and later as a Libertarian — but failed to receive either nomination.

This time around, Gravel and his campaign admitted that the nomination was not their true goal. While attending the June presidential debates, Oks and Williams told HuffPost they weren’t “in it for the long haul.”

Instead, they sought to push the field further left and expose voters to the ideas that Gravel has long championed — most significantly, ending the cycle of American wars and what they refer to as “the American Empire.”

With Gravel’s withdrawal from the race, the campaign has pledged to donate what remains of its fundraising to charity.

This story has been updated to include Gravel’s endorsement of Gabbard.

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