United States Senate election in Alaska, 1980

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United States Senate election in Alaska, 1980
Alaska
1974 ←
November 4, 1980 → 1986

  Frankmurkowski.jpg
Nominee Frank Murkowski Clark Gruening
Party Republican Democratic
Popular vote 84,159 72,007
Percentage 53.69% 45.93%

U.S. Senator before election

Mike Gravel
Democratic

Elected U.S. Senator

Frank Murkowski
Republican

The 1980 United States Senate election in Alaska was held on November 4, 1980. Incumbent Democratic United States Senator Mike Gravel ran for a third term in the United States Senate, but lost in the Democratic primary to Clark Gruening, a former State Representative who was the grandson of Ernest Gruening, whom Gravel had defeated twelve years prior in an election for the same seat. Gruening later went on to lose the general election to Republican nominee Frank Murkowski, a banker.

After the loss of Gravel's seat, no Alaska Democrat would win a Congressional race again until Mark Begich's narrow, protracted triumph in Alaska's 2008 Senate election.[1]

Democratic primary[edit]

Candidates[edit]

Campaign[edit]

First elected in 1968, by 1980 two-term Democratic incumbent Mike Gravel had become noted for a filibuster that attempted to end the draft during the Vietnam War and for including the full text of the Pentagon Papers in the Congressional Record.

Gravel faced a challenging bid for re-election, complicated by the fact that his triumph over Ernest Gruening years prior had made him a pariah in the Alaska Democratic Party. Though Gravel had campaigned to be selected as George McGovern's running mate in the 1972 U.S. presidential election and had easily won re-election to the Senate in 1974, he had never established a strong political base in Alaska.[2]

The passage of a controversial land bill earlier in the year, as opposed to a compromise bill worked out by fellow Senator Ted Stevens that failed thanks to Gravel two years prior, further harmed his re-election bid.[3][4] A group of Democrats, including future governor Steve Cowper, campaigned against Gravel on the land bill issue.[5]

The sources of Gravel's campaign funds, some of which came from political action committees outside the state, also became an issue in the contest.[4] Another factor may have been Alaska's blanket primary system, which allows unlimited cross-over voting across parties and from its large unaffiliated electorate;[5] Republicans believed Gruening would be an easier candidate to defeat in the general election.[4] The blanket primary had first been used in the 1968 election, and was something Gravel himself was able to capitalize upon in his 1968 campaign.

Gravel would later comment that by the time of his primary defeat, he had alienated "almost every constituency in Alaska."[3] In the August 26, 1980, primary Gruening defeated Gravel by 11 percentage points.

Results[edit]

Democratic primary results[6]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Clark Gruening 39,719 54.88%
Democratic Mike Gravel (inc.) 31,504 43.53%
Democratic Michael J. Beasley 1,145 1.58%
Totals 72,368 100.00%

Republican primary[edit]

Candidates[edit]

Results[edit]

Republican primary results[6]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Frank Murkowski 16,262 58.92%
Republican Art Kennedy 5,527 20.02%
Republican Morris Thompson 3,635 13.17%
Republican Don Smith 896 3.25%
Republican Donald R. Wright 824 2.99%
Republican Dave Moe 458 1.66%
Totals 27,602 100.00%

General election[edit]

Results[edit]

United States Senate election in Alaska, 1980[7]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Frank Murkowski 84,159 53.69% +11.97%
Democratic Clark Gruening 72,007 45.93% -12.35%
Write-ins 596 0.38%
Majority 12,152 7.75% -8.81%
Turnout 156,762
Republican gain from Democratic Swing

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kane, Paul (2008-11-19). "Ted Stevens Loses Battle For Alaska Senate Seat". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-11-19. 
  2. ^ Robert KC Johnson, "Not Many Senators Have Found Themselves in Joe Lieberman's Predicament", History News Network, August 7, 2006. Accessed July 7, 2007.
  3. ^ a b Alex Koppelman, "Don't worry, be Mike Gravel", Salon.com, May 7, 2007. Accessed July 4, 2007.
  4. ^ a b c Wallace Turner (1980-08-28). "Gravel Loses a Bitter Fight In Senate Primary in Alaska" (fee required). The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-12-10. 
  5. ^ a b Wallace Turner, "Side Issues Figure in Tricky Alaska Primary", The New York Times, July 6, 1982. Accessed July 7, 2007.
  6. ^ a b http://www.elections.alaska.gov/results/80PRIM/80prim.pdf
  7. ^ http://clerk.house.gov/member_info/electionInfo/1980election.pdf