Virginia Libertarian Sarvis could shake up the election for governor

A poll shows Cuccinelli and McAuliffe in a virtual tie in the race for Virginia's governor, but Libertarian Sarvis should not be overlooked. Photo: Robert Sarvis/ Ap

WASHINGTON, September 18, 2013 — With both Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe bringing scandal and bad press to the Virginia gubernatorial election, Libertarian Robert Sarvis could become the deciding factor in November’s election.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday shows McAuliffe and Cuccinelli in a virtual tie.  While the poll technically gives McAuliffe a slight lead over Cuccinelli, that lead falls within the margin of error.

SEE RELATED: PHILLIPS: Terry McAuliffe the Virginia campaign

Although polling shows that it is unlikely Sarvis will outright win the election, he has held a surprisingly high percentage for a third party candidate ranging between 5 and 10 percentage points. That could split votes and push one of the major candidates into victory.

In the past, third party candidates have had a difficult time gaining momentum in Old Dominion. The last Independent candidate in Virginia was Russ Potts in 2005. Potts was polling at 5 percent in September 2005 and ultimately only received 2.22 percent of the vote.

Third party candidates often have an uphill battle competing against other candidates who have the backing of major political parties. They are often ignored by the national media, they are shut out of debates and the funding available is substantially less. Even navigating the complex process to get their names on the ballot is much more difficult for an Independent candidate.

But this upcoming election in Virginia is not like most elections.

Cuccinelli has had to spend much of his campaign separating himself from the current Republican governor Bob McDonnell and the donor who brought scandal to his office.

McAuliffe has had to deal with scandal of his own, with an investigation into his former electric car company.

For Virginia voters who are exhausted from the constant missteps and wrongdoing, Sarvis could be a refreshing prospect.

According to Sarvis’ campaigning website, he grew up in Northern Virginia and graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. He earned degrees in mathematics at both Harvard University and University of Cambridge. He earned a J.D. from New York University School of Law and a Masters degree from George Mason University.

Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, explained what he believes the polls show in a released statement along with the polling results, “History tells us that third-party candidates tend to experience shrinking support as Election Day nears. If Sarvis does get 7 percent of the actual vote, that would reflect not just his strength but the weakness of the major party candidates.”

“Right now, we can’t tell whether Sarvis’ candidacy is hurting Cuccinelli more than McAuliffe,” said Brown. “The Libertarian candidate is getting 3 percent of the Republican vote and 2 percent of the Democratic vote, but 14 percent of Independent voters.”

Servis appeals to democratic voters with his platform of personal freedoms, supporting marriage equality, restoring civil liberties and “embracing immigrants with open arms.”

At the same time, he appeals to Republican voters with his stands on economic freedom by offering tax relief, freeing up workers and job creators from needless regulation and putting parents in control of the money spent on their children’s education.

With a campaign slogan of “Virginia: Open-minded, and Open for Business,” Servis could win even more voters as the election approaches.

The Quinnipiac poll showed that honesty is either extremely or very important to 94 percent of Virginia voters, and understanding problems of “people like me” was important to 81 percent. Neither Cucinnelli nor McAuliffe reaches 50 percent in these categories.

The Libertarian party is increasingly popular with young voters. Many of the social stigmas have broken down for the younger generations, and they are more likely to describe themselves as fiscally conservative and socially liberal, making it easy for them to identify with the Libertarian platform.

Additionally, many of these voters are uncomfortable with increased government surveillance and see reduced personal liberties in the name of the Patriot Act. They also do not agree with a bigger government that includes condoning the use of drone attacks on American citizens.

With an election running as tightly as the Virginia gubernatorial election has been since the primary elections, an outside force such as Robert Sarvis could change up the results in an unexpected way.

He is a force that the major parties would be wise to take notice of.

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Susan L Ruth

Susan L. Ruth is a long-time Washington, DC resident with extensive ties throughout the community.  She is a genealogical researcher and writer, and is an active volunteer in the Northern Virginia competitive swimming community.  Susan previously worked providing life-skills to head injured adults. 

Susan and her husband Kerry currently live in Northern Virginia with their three sons, Ryley, Casey and Jack and their American Bulldog, Leila.


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