Speed Reads

Rest in Peace

Mike Gravel, former Alaska senator and idiosyncratic presidential candidate, has died at 91

Mike Gravel, a senator from Alaska from 1969 to 1981 who ran quixotic presidential bids in 2008 and 2020, died Saturday, his daughter, Lynne Mosier, told The Associated Press. He was 91 and in failing health. 

Gravel's two terms in the Senate were notable for his opposition to the Vietnam War — he led an unsuccessful one-man filibuster of the draft in 1971 and read the 4,100 pages of the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record — and fighting President Jimmy Carter's actions to preserve much of Alaska as national lands. He was unseated in the 1980 Democratic primary by a candidate who went on to lose to Sen. Frank Murkowski (R).

Gravel ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in the 2008 and 2020 elections, though his campaigns got little traction. He participated in at least one Democratic debate in 2007, then dropped out and ran for the Libertarian nomination after he was not invited to subsequent debates. He did not get the Libertarian nomination. Gravel's brief 2020 campaign was more quixotic, run by two 18-year-olds. 

"There was never any ... plan that he would do anything more than participate in the debates," said former aide Theodore Johnson. "He didn't plan to campaign, but he wanted to get his ideas before a larger audience."Gravel did not qualify for any 2020 debates.

Gravel was born Maurice Robert Gravel in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1930. He was living in Seaside, California, before his death, Johnson said.