How did Mike Gravel twice get elected to the Senate from Alaska?

I have never been to the state and I know no one from there. But everything I can find on Wikipedia and Google gives me no indication of what that anomaly was about. All their other modern era election results seem to be fairly right leaning or centrist. Yet in his first election he managed to win despite a solid third-party effort from a fellow Democrat. Then he got reelected after filibustering a draft extension, and seeming culturally out of touch with the state, not being a hunter or fisherman.

I see that Alaska does have a larger Green Party presence than many states; but it still seems like the Republicans are more powerful than Greens and Democrats combined. So what gives?

Gravel was Senator pre-Reagan 30+ years ago. The political spectrum was totally different than it is now.

I suppose Alaska has had a lot of immigration since as well. Sarah Palin, for example, was not born in Alaska.

I can’t figure out how Michele Bachmann or Marco Rubio got elected to public office either.

It’s also worth remembering that local politics never works the same way as national politics. I’ll use Montana as an example, since I’m familiar with there, but it’s probably similar in Alaska. In Montana, the Republicans have a significant advantage in Presidential races, in large part because Montanans tend to be very pro-gun, and at the national level, the Republicans have staked out that ideological territory. In an election between two Montanans, though, that’s never going to be an issue, since both of the candidates will be pro-gun. With that issue taken off the table, the state is a lot bluer, and so it becomes possible for a Democrat to be elected governor or senator (and indeed, all three of those are currently Democrats). Other issues work the same way: Many Montanans are also pro-fossil fuel, since a lot of people have jobs in that industry, and again, we see that Montana Democrats tend to lean that way.

In general, states are less one-sided at the state level than they are at the national level, because whatever issues are particularly important to a state, will tend to be found in that state’s politicians of both parties. I don’t know what the relevant issues would be for Alaska, but there are bound to be some.

Somebody has to represent the interests of gravel and other small pieces of rock in the legislature.

Also, throwing a rock in a pond.

Up until oil moved in people in Alaska voted for the man, not the party, except for presidential elections. Even as recently as 2002, holders of the governorship were split 5-4 dems/reps. And senators were 4-3 dem/rep as of 2013. That said, most Dems up there are really centrist in nature, although are radical liberals by the right’s definition. Gravel was reflecting his constituency’s wishes and his personal feelings about the war. He didn’t get loony until later years.

That’s way too facile, given Goldwater and McGovern.

But Schweitzer and Tester provide plenty of photo ops of them hunting and fishing and generally seeming “rough hewn”, unlike Gravel.

Best political ad ever.

Chefguy, interesting points. But maybe the real question is what was wrong with the Republican Rasmuson that he couldn’t beat a divided Democratic field of Gravel and the incumbent Dem Gruening, who nabbed 18% of the vote?

Looking more at Gravel’s bio, he was an Ivy Leaguer who was born and raised in Massachusetts, to French-Canadian parents. Say what?!? Seems like exactly the wrong sort for the Alaska electorate as I understand it.

“We just thought it would be funny to vote for* gravel.”*

It’s actually not even the best Mike Gravel ad ever. I’ll just assume you’ve never seen his cover of Helter Skelter.

Because Stephanie says.

Gruening was liked right up until he voted against the Tonkin Resolution. This was not a popular move and it cost him the election. Gruening ran as an Independent after losing the primary, but he was tainted. Independents in Alaska generally vote Republican nowadays, but perhaps at that time they were more centrist and decided to go with Gravel. I can’t say what the problem was with Rasmuson. The year he was elected mayor, I was headed for Vietnam, so have no personal recollection with how he governed the city.

You have to understand that the pool of capable politicians is small in Alaska and since the 70s the oil companies have backed those that are sympathetic to them. Even today, with the population of Alaska much larger than in 1967, it’s still difficult for either party to field a candidate that doesn’t make you hold your nose while voting for him. The really good people never seem to make it past city government positions, since they’re usually labelled as ‘liberals’.

By the way, people, it’s pronounced gruh-VELL and not like the small rocks.

There were also Republicans like Nelson Rockefeller, and Democrats like George Wallace.

And in the 21st century, we have Republicans like Bloomberg and Democrats like Manchin. The claim I was responding to was that “the political spectrum was totally different than it is now”. Substitute “somewhat” for “totally” and I have no problem with it.

Using MA as an example: I’m 35 and have only had 2 Democratic governors in my living memory. But we are solidly “blue” in Presidential elections.

Rubio is relatively moderate, and comes from a purple state that currently leans Republican. Bachmann just happens to represent the Fucking Crazy part of Minnesota (a la Steve King in Iowa, which is largely Democratic.)