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Mike Gravel Calls It Quits, Turning Presidential Campaign Into Liberal Think Tank

Mike Gravel

Former U.S. senator Mike Gavel (D-Alaska) announced he is ending his presidential campaign to start a new think tank promoting leftist causes.


Former U.S. senator Mike Gavel (D-Alaska) announced this week he is ending his long-shot bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination and will divert resources to creating a new think tank to promote leftist causes.

Gravel, 89, failed to qualify for the first set of Democratic debates in June but did qualify for the second round this week. The former senator was kept off the stage, however, as 21 candidates qualified for only 20 spots on stage, forcing the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to go by tie-breaker rules to determine who got to be behind the last podium.

“The DNC kept up off the stage tonight even though we qualified, but the #Gravelanche is not over,” Gravel wrote on Twitter Wednesday. “We’re gonna keep going. As the campaign ends, we’re going to help build institutions on the left which can grow power, shape policy, and create strong activists for the long haul.”

The Gravel campaign says it will donate some of its funds raised to charity while the rest will go towards setting up The Gravel Institute as a new left-wing think tank to advance liberal causes such as “ending the American empire” and “reforming our democracy.”

The new leftist think tank’s announced priorities fit the pacifist message that was the centerpiece for the former senator’s presidential campaign. The campaign said the new organization would support the bold activism that defined Gravel’s time in the Senate, such as reading the Pentagon Papers into the congressional record.

Henry Magowan, the campaign’s 19-year-old treasurer who is a student at Columbia University, told ABC News that the campaign will decide in the next week whom to throw its support behind, and is choosing between Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), and self-help author Marianne Williamson.

“Those are all names themselves we’ve come to appreciate during this primary campaign, and having seen their performances in the most recent debates, the senator has great admiration for them and is considering throwing his support behind any number of them,” Magowan told ABC.

Gravel’s backing could provide a much-needed boost in the crowded field of candidates from the more than 60,000 people who supported Gravel. While the bump in support would not be as significant for Warren or Sanders, who have already qualified for the next Democratic debate in September, it could be the difference in staying in the race or dropping out for Gabbard or Williamson, who are both in danger of not making it to the next major primetime event in the race.

To qualify for the third Democratic debate set to be held in Houston, Texas on Sept. 12 and 13, candidates must show more than 130,000 unique donors in addition to registering at least 2 percent support in four polls approved by the DNC. Candidates have until Aug. 28 to meet the threshold.

Currently, eight candidates have qualified for the debate stage in Houston, including Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.); former vice president Joe Biden; South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg; and former U.S. representative Beto O’Rourke.

If ten or fewer candidates meet the threshold the DNC set to qualify for the Houston debates, then the debate will likely be a one-night event.