Alaska’s former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel is taking a turn in the national spotlight once again, following an announcement on his Twitter feed this week of a possible presidential campaign.
An 88-year-old cannabis company CEO and a stalwart of progressive and sometimes fringe policies, Gravel got a viral lift from news stories and new Twitter followers after “#Gravel2020” appeared on the @MikeGravel account Tuesday.
The account is run by New York teenagers David Oks, who attends a prep school in Westchester County, and Henry Williams, a student at Columbia University, according to Oks, who is handling press inquiries for Gravel.
Impressed with Gravel’s ideas, they reached out to him encouraging him to run, said Oks, who is 17. They have been in regular contact with him about his possible intention to declare his candidacy.
“We still have to convince his wife,” Oks said.
Oks said the teens have filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission creating an exploratory committee. They plan to meet with Gravel next month and hope he agrees to enter the Democratic primary then.
Gravel’s goal is not winning but reshaping and pushing the Democratic Party “leftward," the account says.
Gravel, the Democratic senator for Alaska between 1969 and 1981, now lives in California. He wants to join the first two debates before dropping out and endorsing a progressive candidate while bringing a “critique of American imperialism to the Democratic debate stage,” the posts say.
Gravel’s newly created and possible campaign page, mikegravel.org, highlights his opposition to the Vietnam War and his 1971 reading of the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record, despite the risk of expulsion from the Senate.
It says he’s committed to “ending America’s imperial policies (especially in Venezuela and Iran)" and, among other things, abolishing mass surveillance on American citizens and prioritizing climate change.
Gravel ran unsuccessfully for president in 2008, joining Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in Democratic presidential primary debates. He gained support for blasting the Iraq War and candidates he claimed were part of a corrupt political system.
During that race, he made headlines with a bizarre campaign video that went viral, when he stared quietly into the camera for a full minute before turning away and tossing a rock into a pond, then walking off.