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.
- Clark Gruening, former Alaska State Representative
- Mike Gravel, incumbent United States Senator
- Michael J. Beasley, perennial candidate
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 reelection, 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 reelection to the Senate in 1974, he had never established a strong political base in Alaska.
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 earlier, further harmed his reelection bid. A group of Democrats, including future governor Steve Cowper, campaigned against Gravel on the land bill issue.
Gravel's campaign funds, some of which came from political action committees outside the state, also became an issue in the contest. Another factor may have been Alaska's blanket primary system, which allowed unlimited cross-over voting across parties and from its large unaffiliated electorate; Republicans believed Gruening would be an easier candidate to defeat in the general election. The blanket primary had first been used in the 1968 election, and was something Gravel himself was able to capitalize on that year.
Gravel later said that by the time of his primary defeat, he had alienated "almost every constituency in Alaska." In the August 26 primary Gruening defeated Gravel by 11 percentage points.
|Democratic||Mike Gravel (incumbent)||31,504||43.53%|
|Democratic||Michael J. Beasley||1,145||1.58%|
- Frank Murkowski, president of the Alaska National Bank of the North and former Commissioner of Economic Development
- Art Kennedy
- Morris Thompson, former Bureau of Indian Affairs official
- Don Smith, Anchorage assemblyman
- Donald R. Wright, former president of the Alaska Federation of Natives
- Dave Moe
|Republican||Donald R. Wright||824||2.99%|
|Republican gain from Democratic|
- Kane, Paul (November 19, 2008). "Ted Stevens Loses Battle For Alaska Senate Seat". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 19, 2008.
- Robert KC Johnson, "Not Many Senators Have Found Themselves in Joe Lieberman's Predicament", History News Network, August 7, 2006. Accessed July 7, 2007.
- Alex Koppelman, "Don't worry, be Mike Gravel", Salon.com, May 7, 2007. Accessed July 4, 2007.
- Wallace Turner (August 28, 1980). "Gravel Loses a Bitter Fight In Senate Primary in Alaska" (fee required). The New York Times. Retrieved December 10, 2007.
- Wallace Turner, "Side Issues Figure in Tricky Alaska Primary", The New York Times, July 6, 1982. Accessed July 7, 2007.