Mike Gravel

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Mike Gravel
Mike Gravel cropped.png
Personal Details
Education: Assumption College
American International College
Columbia University (BS)
Party: Democratic (before 2008; 2010–present)
Libertarian (2008–2010)
Website: https://mikegravel.com/
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Maurice Robert "Mike" Gravel (May 13, 1930 – June 26, 2021) is an American politician who served as a United States Senator from Alaska from 1969 to 1981. A former member of the Libertarian Party, he ran for U.S. president in the 2008 election.

Born and raised in Springfield, Massachusetts, by French-Canadian immigrant parents, Gravel served in the U.S. Army in West Germany, and later graduated from the Columbia University School of General Studies. He moved to Alaska in the late 1950s, becoming a real estate developer and entering politics. He served in the Alaska House of Representatives from 1963 to 1967 and also became Speaker of the Alaska House. Gravel was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1968.

As a senator, Gravel became nationally known for his forceful but unsuccessful attempts to end the draft during the War in Vietnam and for putting the Pentagon Papers into the public record in 1971 at some risk to himself. He conducted an unusual campaign for the Democratic nomination in 1972 for Vice President of the United States, and then played a crucial role in obtaining Congressional approval for the Trans-Alaska pipeline in 1973. He was reelected to the Senate in 1974, but gradually alienated his Alaskan constituents, and his bid for a third term was defeated in a primary election in 1980.

Gravel returned to business ventures and went through difficult times, suffering corporate and personal bankruptcies amid poor health. He has been an advocate of direct democracy and the National Initiative.

In April 2006 Gravel began a run for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States to promote those ideas. His campaign gained an Internet following and national attention due to forceful, humorous, and politically unorthodox debate appearances during 2007, but he found very little support in national polls or the 2008 caucuses and primaries. In March 2008 he left the Democratic Party and joined the Libertarian Party to compete for its presidential nomination and the inclusion of the National Initiative into the Libertarian Platform. At the Libertarian National Convention of 2008, he failed on both counts. He subsequently became an executive for a marijuana products company and continued to speak out about various political issues and candidates.

Launching his bid in April 2019, Gravel ran for president again in the 2020 election, in a campaign designed as a democratic project rather than with the intent to win. He met the donor threshold to qualify for the second of the Democratic Party debates, but was not invited. His campaign ended four months after it began.[1]


Gravel was born on May 13, 1930 in Springfield, Massachusetts, one of five children of French-Canadian immigrant parents, Alphonse and Marie (née Bourassa) Gravel.[2][3][4]

Gravel "decided to become a pioneer in a faraway place,"[5] and moved to pre-statehood Alaska in August 1956, without funds or a job, looking for a place where someone without social or political connections could be a viable candidate for public office.[6][7] Alaska's voting age of 19, less than most other states' 21, played a role in his decision,[8] as did its newness[6] and cooler climate.[7] Seeing Alaska as a wide-open place with no political establishment or entrenched interests,[9] Gravel quickly became part of the civic scene there.[10][11]

2008 presidential campaign

Switch to Libertarian Party

On March 25, 2008, Gravel announced that he would leave the Democrats and join the Libertarian Party,[12][13] saying: "My libertarian views, as well as my strong stance against war, the military industrial complex and American imperialism, seem not to be tolerated by Democratic Party elites who are out of touch with the average American; elites that reject the empowerment of American citizens I offered to the Democratic Party at the beginning of this presidential campaign with the National Initiative for Democracy."[12] The following day Gravel entered the race for the 2008 Libertarian presidential nomination,[14] saying that he would have run as a third-party candidate all along except that he needed the public exposure that came from being in the earlier Democratic debates.[14] Gravel's initial notion of running as a fusion candidate with other parties was met with skepticism[15] and not pursued.

As a Libertarian candidate, Gravel faced resistance to his liberal past and unorthodox positions;[16] nevertheless, he garnered more support than he had as a Democrat, placing second and third in two April 2008 straw polls.[17] In the May 25 balloting at the 2008 Libertarian National Convention in Denver, Gravel finished fourth out of eight candidates on the initial ballot, with 71 votes out of a total 618; he trailed former Congressman and eventual winner Bob Barr, author Mary Ruwart, and businessman Wayne Allyn Root.[18] Gravel's position did not subsequently improve and he was eliminated on the fourth ballot.[18] Afterwards he stated that "I just ended my political career," but he vowed to continue promoting his positions as a writer and lecturer.[19]


Gravel died of multiple myeloma at his home in Seaside, California, on June 26, 2021, at age 91.[20][21][22]

The obituary for him in The New York Times stated that Gravel was "a two-term Democratic senator from Alaska ... who was perhaps better known as an unabashed attention-getter" who later become known for "mounting long-shot presidential runs".[21] The obituary in The Washington Post was similar, saying that Gravel was "an Alaska Democrat with a flair for the theatrical who rose from obscurity to brief renown" and later "ran quixotic campaigns for the presidency".[22] The Anchorage Daily News quoted Gravel as saying of himself in 1989, "I'm an independent kind of guy. A rough and ready kind of guy. My glands work in a certain way that make me stand up, foolishly sometimes, and fight."[23]

Awards and honors

In 2008 Gravel received the Columbia University School of General Studies' first annual Isaac Asimov Lifetime Achievement Award.[24]


  • Gravel, Mike. Jobs and More Jobs. Mt. McKinley Publishers, 1968.
  • Gravel, Mike. Citizen Power: A People's Platform. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1972. 0-03-091465-5.
    • revised and reissued as Citizen Power: A Mandate for Change, AuthorHouse, 2008. 1-4343-4315-4.
  • Gravel, Mike and Lauria, Joe. A Political Odyssey: The Rise of American Militarism and One Man's Fight to Stop It. Seven Stories Press, 2008. ISBN 1-58322-826-8.
  • Gravel, Mike and Eisenbach, David. The Kingmakers: How the Media Threatens Our Security and Our Democracy. Phoenix Books, 2008. 1-59777-586-X.
  • Gravel, Mike. Voice of a Maverick: The Speeches and Writings of Senator Mike Gravel. Brandywine House, 2008.
  • Gravel, Mike. Foreword to "Poisoned Power: The Case Against Nuclear Power Plants." [John W. Goffman & Arthur R. Tamplin, Rodale Press, Inc., Emmaus, PA, June 1971].
  • Gravel, Mike. The Failure of Representative Government and the Solution: A Legislature of the People. AuthorHouse, 2020. 1-7283-3929-4


  1. http://www.washingtontimes.com,+The Washington Times. "Gravel meets donor threshold to qualify for Democratic primary debate" (in en-US). https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/jul/13/mike-gravel-2020-candidate-meets-donor-threshold-n/. 
  2. Mike Gravel genealogy, Wargs.
  3. Current Biography Yearbook 1972, p. 182.
  4. Gravel and Lauria, A Political Odyssey, pp. 69–70.
  5. Martin Tolchin (February 27, 1976). "Senators From Hinterlands Recall Early Years in City; U.S. Senators Recall Their Early Years in City" (fee required). The New York Times. https://select.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F30E14F83A58167493C5AB1789D85F428785F9. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Leahy, Michael (September 9, 2007). "Last". The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/04/AR2007090401794.html?sid=ST2007101600688. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Alex Koppelman (May 7, 2007). "Don't worry, be Mike Gravel". http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2007/05/07/mike_gravel/index.html. 
  8. Warren Weaver, Jr. (July 2, 1971). "Impetuous Senator: Maurice Robert Gravel" (fee required). The New York Times. https://select.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F20D10FD3A5B1A7493C0A9178CD85F458785F9. 
  9. Gravel and Lauria, A Political Odyssey, p. 136.
  10. "Democrats Plan Two-Day Drive For Campaign". Fairbanks News-Miner: p. 10. October 7, 1957. https://www.newspapers.com/image/10383606/?terms=%22mike%2Bgravel%22. 
  11. "Alaskan Young Demo Tells Conference Statehood Views". Fairbanks News-Miner. Associated Press: p. 3. June 23, 1958. https://www.newspapers.com/image/11709894/?terms=%22mike%2Bgravel%22. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel joins Libertarian Party ranks". Libertarian Party. March 25, 2008. http://www.lp.org/media/article_573.shtml. 
  13. Mike Gravel (March 26, 2008). "A Personal Message from Mike". Mike Gravel for President 2008. http://www.gravel2008.us/content/personal-message-mike. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 Sarah Elkins (March 31, 2008). "Maverick Mike". Newsweek. http://www.newsweek.com/id/129467/. 
  15. Josh Gerstein (March 27, 2008). "Barr, Gravel Eye Libertarian Nod for President". The New York Sun. http://www.nysun.com/national/barr-gravel-eye-libertarian-nod-for-president/73744/. 
  16. Philip Klein (May 21, 2008). "Will the Real Libertarian Please Stand Up?". The American Spectator. http://www.spectator.org/dsp_article.asp?art_id=13249. 
  17. "Straw Poll Results". Mike Gravel for President 2008. April 8, 2008. http://www.gravel2008.us/content/straw-poll-results. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 "Press Releases: Presidential and VP Vote Totals – Updated Live!". LP.org. May 25, 2008. http://www.lp.org/media/printer_588.shtml. 
  19. "Libertarians Pick Barr as Presidential Nominee". Fox News. May 25, 2008. http://elections.foxnews.com/2008/05/25/libertarians-pick-barr-as-presidential-nominee/. 
  20. "Mike Gravel, Former US Senator for Alaska, Dies at 91". US News & World Report. Associated Press. June 27, 2021. https://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2021-06-27/mike-gravel-former-us-senator-for-alaska-dies-at-91. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 "Mike Gravel, Unconventional Two-Term Alaska Senator, Dies at 91". The New York Times. June 27, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/27/us/politics/mike-gravel-dead.html. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 "Mike Gravel, gadfly senator from Alaska with flair for the theatrical, dies at 91". The Washington Post. June 27, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/mike-gravel-dead/2021/06/27/a496d870-13b4-11e9-90a8-136fa44b80ba_story.html. 
  23. "Mike Gravel, who represented Alaska in the U.S. Senate from 1969–1981, dies at 91". Anchorage Daily News. June 27, 2021. https://www.adn.com/politics/2021/06/27/mike-gravel-former-us-alaska-senator-dies-at-91/. 
  24. Pianin, Alix (March 3, 2008). "GS Honors Students, Alum at Annual Gala". Columbia Daily Spectator. http://columbiaspectator.com/2008/03/03/gs-honors-students-alum-annual-gala. 
  • The Pentagon Papers Senator Gravel Edition. Vol. Five. Critical Essays. Boston. Beacon Press, 1972. 341p. plus 72p. of Index to Vol. I–IV of the Papers, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, editors.

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