On March 26th, 2008, the Anchorage Daily News reports that former Alaska U.S. Senator and current Democratic Presidential candidate Mike Gravel (pictured at left) has bolted the Democratic Party and has now joined the Libertarian Party. Fox News has also picked up the story. Gravel also posted a brief announcement of this decision on his official campaign website.
While the Alaska Libertarian Party has not yet reacted to this development, the Libertarian Party's national website has responded in detail. Here's an excerpt from their post:
"I'm joining the Libertarian Party because it is a party that combines a commitment to freedom and peace that can't be found in the two major parties that control the government and politics of America," says Gravel. "My libertarian views, as well as my strong stance against war, the military industrial complex and American imperialism, seem not to be tolerated by Democratic Party elites who are out of touch with the average American; elites that reject the empowerment of American citizens I offered to the Democratic Party at the beginning of this presidential campaign with the National Initiative for Democracy."
Gravel served in the United States Senate from 1969 to 1981. Most recently, Gravel was a Democratic presidential candidate, though forced out of national debates by Democratic Party leadership and the media. Gravel officially became a member of the Libertarian Party today.
Gravel is the most recent former member of Congress to switch to the Libertarian Party. In 2006, former Republican Congressman Bob Barr joined the Libertarian Party.
"We're honored to have a former member of the United States Senate join our ranks," says Libertarian Party Executive Director Shane Cory. “Senator Gravel has a sincere dedication to empowering the American people and eliminating the corrupting influence of the two major parties. His switch from the Democratic Party, as well as former Congressman Barr’s abandonment of the GOP, shows that the Libertarian Party is truly a big tent organization moving firmly in the direction of Liberty.”
Gravel did not specify whether or not he was now transferring his Presidential candidacy as well. If he does decide to transfer his candidacy, he will join a crowded field which includes the following 14 candidates (pictures of candidates and links to their campaign websites available HERE):
- James Burns. Former chairman of the Nevada Libertarian Party.
- Alden Link. Engineer, businessman.
- Barry Hess. A regular contributor to Phxnews.com.
- John Fihan. Businessman, community activist, philanthropist.
- Daniel Williams.
- Daniel Imperato. Businessman from Florida.
- Bob Jackson. Businessman from Michigan.
- Mike Jingozian. Software company founder from Oregon.
- Steve Kubby. Businessman, marijuana legalization activist, and 1998 Gubernatorial candidate from California.
- Robert Milnes. Progressive activist from New Jersey.
- George Phillies. College professor, 2002 candidate for chair of the Libertarian National Committee, and 1998 Congressional candidate from Massachusetts.
- Wayne Allyn Root. Sports handicapper, author, and TV show host from Nevada.
- Mary Ruwart. Author of Healing Our World, candidate for the Libertarian 1984 presidential nomination and 1992 Vice-Presidential nomination.
- Christine Smith. Humanitarian activist, and writer from Colorado.
While Mike Gravel now becomes the one "marquee" name on this list, do not assume the Libertarians will just hand him their party's Presidential nomination at their national convention in Denver on May 22-26. As a "Johnny-come-lately", he'll be expected to demonstrate the sincerity of his conversion and show how he can promote the party better than the other candidates. Despite their "big tent" reputation, even the Libertarians have limits; in 2006, the Missouri Libertarian Party rejected the candidacy of Glenn Miller for Missouri's 7th Congressional District, primarily because they believed he was "party-shopping" and because they believed Miller's views on race were incompatible with libertarian doctrine. Miller ultimately ran as a write-in candidate and is repeating the process this year. The Missouri Libertarians also rejected a candidate named "Wana Dubie" earlier this year, primarily because they considered his candidacy too frivolous.
Whether or not Democratic supporters of Mike Gravel will still be able to vote for him in any upcoming state primaries will depend upon whether or not those state primaries are open or closed. In Alaska, only the Republican primary is a "closed" primary, restricted to registered Republicans and independents. The primaries for all the other officially-recognized parties are "open", and all their candidates will appear on the same primary ballot. Only Republican candidates appear on the Republican ballot. However, Presidential candidates are not placed on primary ballots in Alaska, so this becomes redundant here. To appear on Alaska's general election ballot in November, Presidential candidates or their representatives must file by June 2nd, 2008. Only one Presidential candidate has filed in Alaska so far.