Gravel says he has reached donor threshold for primary debates

Former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska) announced Friday he had reached the donor threshold to appear in the Democratic presidential primary debates later this month in Detroit, though he still is below the polling threshold for the debates.

Gravel's campaign said it received donations from 65,000 unique donors, reaching the threshold set by the Democratic National Committee (DNC). However, Gravel has not polled at 1 percent or above in three DNC-approved polls, the other debate qualification.

Candidates can qualify for the debate by reaching either the donor threshold or the polling threshold. However, if more than 20 candidates in total qualify, the DNC will prioritize those who have met both criteria.

"I'm grateful to every one of the 65,000 who donated to our campaign, and the thousands more that have followed and supported us," Gravel said in a statement. "I will do all I can to ensure their voices not be silenced in this primary."

The campaign hammered the DNC over the polling qualifications, saying it is in talks with national party leaders and has retained counsel over the issue.

"The campaign has retained counsel and is currently in talks with the DNC over the validity of the polling method of qualification, given that well over half of DNC's approved polls methodically and consistently excluded Sen. Gravel despite the campaign's documented, repeated outreach to both pollsters and the DNC for inclusion," Gravel's campaign manager David Oks said.

"If the DNC were to exclude us, the campaign is also developing contingency plans that would allow us to spread our vital message. We kept our receipts, we have retained legal counsel. Our goal in this campaign has always been to shift the conversation, and we will persist in doing so." 

Gravel launched his long-shot campaign in April with the sole intention of appearing on the debate stage rather than actually winning the Democratic nomination. He plans to drop out after the debates and endorse the most progressive candidate.

His campaign appeared to be on its last leg earlier this month when Gravel tweeted that it was "nearing its conclusion" and asking followers where he should donate leftover funds. 

Regardless of his qualifications for this month's debate, Gravel will face a steep challenge to get onto the debate stage again in September, for which the DNC has doubled its qualifications to 130,000 unique donors and polling at 2 percent in four surveys.

- This story was updated July 13 at 1:37 p.m. to provide more context on the debate criteria and correctly reflect the criteria for the third round of debates