Who Is Mike Gravel? 2020 Presidential Canddiate - Rolling Stone
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88-Year-Old Mike Gravel Is the Latest Teen Sensation


Mike Gravel speaks to reporters in Iowa in 2007.

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Mike Gravel was a Democratic senator from Alaska from 1969-1981. He’s currently 88-years-old and, reportedly, thinking about running for president.

On Tuesday night, “#Gravel2020” popped up out of nowhere on the long-dormant @MikeGravel Twitter account. A few minutes later, a post laid out what it claimed were Gravel’s presidential intentions. “I am considering running in the 2020 Democratic primary,” it read. “The goal will not be to win, but to bring a critique of American imperialism to the Democratic debate stage. The website (mikegravel.org) is under construction. Official announcement will be in the coming days.”

The homepage of Gravel’s bare-bones website includes a little more information: “Sen. Gravel is committed to ending America’s imperial policies (especially in Venezuela and Iran), rescheduling cannabis, fundamentally reforming our politics through direct democracy, abolishing mass surveillance on American citizens, prioritizing climate change, dismantling America’s carceral state, and building a foreign policy free of undue influence by Israel and Saudi Arabia.”

An exploratory committee has also been formed, with the group filing a statement of organization to the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday.

The @MikeGravel Twitter account has tweeted over 100 times since the initial sort-of-announcement, and done so with social media acumen uncharacteristic of an 88-year-old former politician.

The account has also fired off several scathing attacks of Gravel’s prospective opponents, including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who “kept innocent men on death row”; Joe Biden, who “voted for the Iraq War”; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who likes to “abuse American workers”; and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), who “invented a drug dealer friend (and voted with Big Pharma).” The account also attacked Booker’s “melodramatic” performance during Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing last year while touting Gravel reading the Pentagon Papers into the congressional record in 1971. Meanwhile, the account seems to favor Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), candidates it wants push “toward more sensible views on political reform and foreign policy through the debate.”

But Gravel isn’t directly involved in the Twitter account, the website or the exploratory committee. On Tuesday night, Zach Montellaro of Politico was able to get in touch with the former senator, who admitted that the strange pre-campaign is the effort of “a group of students” who want Gravel to shake up the Democratic primary. Montellaro made clear that the students are not trolling and that the effort to convince Gravel to seek the nomination is sincere.

Splinter shed some more light on the campaign Wednesday morning, reporting that it’s the brainchild of New York high school student David Oks.

Gravel staffer and Columbia University freshman Henry Williams later confirmed several details to Rolling Stone about the campaign. Williams says that he and Oks, who in 2017 ran for mayor of Ardsley, New York, along with another student, Elijah Emery, have been communicating with the former senator for the past week and a half after hearing about him on the leftist podcast Chapo Trap House. Williams says Gravel is interested in running. “Over several conversations he articulated what he wanted to put out there and that he was interested in starting an exploratory committee,” Williams says.

“The senator has all these issues he wants to get into the public debate,” Williams adds. “That’s the premise of the campaign and of getting his name out there as something that could raise these issues and that could get him on the debate stage. We asked him whether he would be all right with us taking over his social media and testing the waters. We worked with him on a series of policy issues that were important to him, and wanted to phrase those in a way that would get traction on Twitter.”

Williams says that the campaign went viral organically after the initial “#Gravel2020” tweet Tuesday night, and that as of Wednesday morning the account is adding “20 or 30 followers a minute.” Williams, Oks and Emery are currently working on putting a staff together and charting out how to proceed should Gravel decide to make a run. “Like Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg and other smaller, outsider candidates, the goal really is the message and getting his signature policy, particularly foreign policy, out there.”

If Gravel were to enter the fray, it wouldn’t be the first time he sought the presidency. He also ran in 2008 on an anti-interventionist platform similar to what was laid out on the Twitter account and website Tuesday night. His campaign fell flat pretty quickly, but it did yield a powerful DIY ad. If you don’t have the patience to sit through all three minutes, it features Gravel staring into the camera for about 70 seconds before turning around, picking up a medium-sized rock, tossing it into a lake and walking away wordlessly.

Williams says that the staff is planning on taking a trip to California to meet with Gravel, and Montellaro reported Tuesday night that Gravel wants to meet with the students before he decides whether he is going to run again in 2020. “They need to persuade my wife,” he said.

This post has been updated.

In This Article: 2020 election, Democrats


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