Libertarian hopes Va. wants another choice for governor
Posted: Sunday, August 4, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 12:26 am, Mon Aug 5, 2013.
BY MARKUS SCHMIDT
While Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe wrestle with their own controversies, Libertarian nominee Robert C. Sarvis has cast himself as a viable alternative for voters frustrated with the two major party candidates for governor.
Sarvis, 36, who is campaigning full time, is a former software engineer, teacher, lawyer and new media entrepreneur from Northern Virginia. He is the first gubernatorial candidate for the Libertarian Party of Virginia since 2001, when William Redpath received just 14,500 votes, or 0.8 percent of the electorate.
“I’m trying to carve out my own message that is really attractive in an election where people don’t like the extremism of the Democrats and Republicans,” Sarvis said. “There are a lot of voters out there — 40 percent — that are saying they want a different candidate than the other two,” he said.
Independent or third-party candidates traditionally stand little chance of winning statewide elections in Virginia. But Sarvis hopes this year is different.
Democrats are hammering Cuccinelli for accepting $18,000 in gifts from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams, the figure at the center of the scandal that is engulfing the last year of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s term, as well as the attorney general’s stances on social issues.
Republicans are pummeling McAuliffe, founder of GreenTech Automotive. The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating how the Mississippi electric car company used an immigrant visa program in seeking investors.
“It’s indisputable that this is a year when many thousands want an alternative to the two major-party candidates,” said Larry Sabato, head of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “Any analyst hears this constantly from Virginia voters who are dissatisfied with the choices.”
Few third-party candidates for statewide office in Virginia exceed a couple of percentage points. The rare exceptions in recent years featured candidates who were household names before they switched and ran as independents.
U.S. Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr., who initially served as a Democrat, left the party and was re-elected as an independent in 1970 and in 1976.
Henry Howell unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for governor in 1969 before he was elected lieutenant governor as an independent in a special election in 1971. In 1973 Howell ran for governor as an independent and received 49 percent of the vote, nearly defeating Republican Mills Godwin.
J. Marshall Coleman, running as an independent, got 11 percent in the 1994 U.S. Senate election because Charles S. Robb, the Democrat, and Oliver L. North, the Republican, were so controversial, Sabato said.
Coleman also was a known quantity — a former attorney general and two-time Republican nominee for governor who nearly beat Democrat L. Douglas Wilder in 1989. Coleman also had the backing of Sen. John W. Warner, R-Va.
Sarvis is a former Republican who first threw his hat into the political arena two years ago, as the GOP candidate against Richard L. Saslaw, Democratic leader in the Virginia Senate. Sarvis lost with 37 percent of the vote.
The Fairfax County native has since turned his back on the GOP and joined the Libertarian Party.
“I realized that the Republican Party, at least in Virginia, in the current era, is not a good vehicle for liberty candidates,” Sarvis said. “Republicans are very strident on personal issues. When they talk about liberty, they don’t mean any personal issues, there is very little respect for personal autonomy,” he said.
“And on economic issues, it’s almost like they don’t believe in what they talk about. They talk about limited government, but they are just as bad as the other party at cronyism, raising taxes and growing government,” Sarvis said.
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