Former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska said Monday that he hopes he will be allowed to appear in the first Democratic presidential debate if he meets the requirements.
The 88-year-old is vying to get into the first Democratic debate in order to push his message of moving the party further to the left. Despite acknowledging he is not trying to win the presidency, Gravel wants to use the campaign to publicize his platform, which includes positions to the left of many other candidates, including closing foreign military bases abroad and bringing all troops home, ending military aid to Israel, legalizing all drugs, and abolishing the Electoral College.
Gravel told the Washington Examiner in a Monday phone interview that he has raised about $60,000 from 25,000 donors across the U.S. and is hoping to get a place on the debate stage. The Democratic National Committee set guidelines for candidates to make the first debate through two means: polling and fundraising.
One of the ways to get into the first debate is to get 65,000 unique donors, with at least 200 donors from 20 states. Gravel said his team has already met the 20-state requirement and seems to be “on track” to meet the 65,000-donor level by the May 15 deadline.
Gravel’s Twitter account is run by two teenagers in New York. He said they approached him and encouraged him to run in order to market his message to voters.
“It’s just unbelievable that they’re just so talented and have handled this thing completely, I just gave them my Twitter account,” Gravel said. The teens, Henry Williams and David Oks, frequently respond to tweets and are active on the website.
Although the DNC laid out the requirements for the debate, it also said that if there are more than 20 candidates, which is expected to be the case, both the donation and polling factors will be considered in determining who gets a say on the debate stage.
Gravel knocked the Democratic establishment during the interview and said that even if he reaches the threshold, he worries that he may not get the chance to debate. Gravel ran for president in 2008 and said the Democratic Party thwarted his campaign.
“The Democratic Party — if I qualify the way they’ve set it up — then they have no reason to deny me a position in the debates other than they want to thwart, as they did in 2008, they want to thwart my appearance because they didn’t like the message,” Gravel said.
“They set the standard, and if I meet the standard I would expect to be in the debates,” he said. “If that criteria changes, then it will be an interesting interaction between myself and the Democratic Party.”
Gravel told the Washington Examiner that the current leadership of the Democratic Party is too closely associated with the Clinton family.
“Who’s in charge was put in place by the Clinton wing of the party, which is the conservative wing of the party, and it’s unfortunate that the Democratic Party has moved over to the right,” he said.
Gravel served as one of Alaska’s senators from 1969 to 1981 and gained notoriety for publicizing parts of the Pentagon Papers in the 1970s. He ran for president in 2008 but failed to gain traction. His campaign was known for an avant-garde campaign video with him staring into the camera before throwing a large rock into a pond. After not doing well with Democrats, Gravel switched to the Libertarian Party and unsuccessfully mounted a run for its nomination.
Gravel announced he was running for the 2020 nomination last month and released a campaign video titled “Rock 2.0” last week.
Here's the official Mike Gravel 2020 Campaign Launch Ad - "Rock 2.0" Join the #Gravelanche to push American politics to the left and speak truth to power, send Mike $1 to get him on the debate stage: https://t.co/R8N3DrihCD. pic.twitter.com/MWaPNCrxJH— Mike Gravel (@MikeGravel) April 18, 2019
Actress and activist Susan Sarandon said on Twitter Monday that she had donated to Gravel’s campaign. Gravel has not appeared in many polls. He registered at 1% in a recent Gravis Marketing poll, ahead of candidates Julián Castro, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is expected to soon announce a run, is leading the polls nationally at 30% in a RealClearPolitics average of polls, with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., coming in second at 22.5% of the vote.