Gravel, 77, a U.S. Senator from Alaska from 1969 through 1981, spent part of the evening at Spud's Pizza on Adeline Street, in a back room packed by about 40 or 50 members of World Can't Wait - Drive Out the Bush Regime and other activist groups. A former Monterey resident now living in Arlington, Va., he said he loves Berkeley, and hoped to get some votes here.
"Support is pretty relative in my case," quipped the candidate whose strongest showing up until Tuesday had been in Michigan, where he got 0.39 percent of the vote; in Florida, he finished behind four candidates who already had dropped out. "When you're down this low, it's a question of message."
That message is that America needs the National Initiative for Democracy, a plan including a constitutional amendment and a federal statute to allow federal lawmaking by voter initiative.
"If the people will spend the time to listen, they'll realize voting for personalities is not going to change anything _ people have to be able to vote directly," he said, noting neither Clinton nor Obama truly represent the change their campaigns claim. "They're not going to change anything. Hillary is the queen of the military-industrial complex, Obama is the king of the nuclear power industry."
He acknowledged he's, well, unlikely to win the nomination, but noted he'd led in five polls in which participants vote by issue and only afterward find out which candidate best represents their view. "If the nation know my name, I'd be winning."
Dawn Adams, 33, of Walnut Creek, said she became a Gravel volunteer because of his support of the national initiative. "There were other things as well, but this is the centerpiece of his campaign, this is what he's been working on for the last 10 years."
She noted how Congress has failed to act on some people's desire that President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney be impeached. "It's not going to happen, but it would've happened if we had the national initiative in place."
Gravel's platform calls for withdrawing all U.S. troops from Iraq within 120 days; combating global warming by taxing carbon at the source and capping emissions while fighting deforestation; replacing income taxes with a national sales tax on products and services, with a rebate for necessities such as food and clothing; establishing universal health care; supporting abortion choice rights and same-sex marriage; reforming the North American Free Trade Agreement while creating procedures for illegal immigrants to gain legal status; and enacting education reforms including universal pre-kindergarten.
As of 2007's end, his campaign had raised about $380,000 and spent all but about $18,000, with almost $86,000 in debts.
Gravel served in Alaska's Legislature from 1963 to 1966, and as a U.S. Senator from 1969 to 1981. He filibustered for months in 1971 to try to end the draft; read the Pentagon Papers - leaked, classified documents regarding the origins of the Vietnam War - into the Senate record that same year; and sought the Democratic vice presidential nomination in 1972.
Contact Josh Richman at email@example.com or 510-208-6428. Read the Political Blotter at www.ibabuzz.com/politics