- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 13, 2019

Former U.S. senator Mike Gravel started the second phase of his Democratic presidential campaign Saturday after meeting one of the qualifications needed to appear on the debate stage.

Activists campaigning for Mr. Gravel planned to begin pressuring the Democratic National Committee to include the octogenarian in an upcoming debate after receiving contributions from 65,000 unique donors as of Friday, clearing a DNC-imposed threshold to qualify days since nearly throwing in the towel.

“Now that we have reached the requisite number of donors, it is up to the DNC to show their commitment to a fair and open nominating process and include Sen. Gravel in the July debate,” said David Oks, Mr. Gravel’s campaign manager.

The Alaska Democrat has failed to meet another qualification needed to participate in an official Democratic Party presidential debate, however. In addition to receiving 65,000 unique donations, the DNC requires candidates to poll at 1% or above three DNC-approved polls.

“The campaign has retained counsel and is currently in talks with the DNC over the validity of the polling method of qualification, given that well over half of DNC’s approved polls methodically and consistently excluded Sen. Gravel despite the campaign’s documented, repeated outreach to both pollsters and the DNC for inclusion,” said Mr. Oks.

“If the DNC were to exclude us, the campaign is also developing contingency plans that would allow us to spread our vital message,” he added. “We kept our receipts, we have retained legal counsel. Our goal in this campaign has always been to shift the conversation, and we will persist in doing so.”

The next step for Mr. Gravel’s presidential campaign is “making sure Mike gets on stage,” the candidate’s Twitter account added Saturday.

The DNC did not immediately return a request for comment.

Mr. Gravel, 89, represented Alaska in the U.S. Senate from 1969 to 1981. His campaign has touted itself as having the most progressive platform of the more than 20 candidates currently seeking the Democratic nomination to run in 2020 against President Trump, which includes plans to withdraw troops from military bases abroad, ban foreign arms sales and send Henry Kissinger to the Hague.

Mr. Gravel did not qualify for either of the two Democratic debates held in June, and his office said last week that the campaign would likely end within “the next month or so.”

Launched in April, the Gravel campaign has pulled in more than $300,000 as of Friday, or roughly an average of $4 per donation, according to his office.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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