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The gubernatorial candidate is right at the edge of inclusion in the last debate of the race.
Sunday, October 6, 2013
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Virginia’s Libertarian candidate for governor, Robert Sarvis, is no frontrunner. Since April he’s driven more than 15,000 miles across the commonwealth in his own 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan, stockpiled with signs, stickers and door hangers.
It stands in stark contrast to Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli’s 29-foot-long campaign bus and the $7.75 million that Democrat Terry McAuliffe has spent in campaign ads alone.
“Sometimes it can be a little humbling. But other times, the fact that I don’t have handlers and stuff like that, it kind of represents the campaign we’re running and what we’re standing for,” Sarvis said during an editorial board meeting Friday at The Daily Progress. “People respond to that.”
And if the most recent Washington Post poll is accurate, he’s correct.
Last week, Sarvis claimed 10 percent of likely voters in a poll that had McAuliffe ahead by 8 points.
Sarvis said it’s not much, but it may be just enough to significantly affect the gubernatorial race and potentially future elections. Sarvis’ latest numbers put him right at the double-digit threshold set by the sponsors of the race’s last debate, to be held at Virginia Tech. on Oct. 24.
“It’s always vague and the goalposts tend to move,” said Sarvis, who was excluded from the last candidate debate in Fairfax County. But, “Oct. 10 is when they said if I’m still maintaining 10 percent in the polls, then I’m in.”
If admitted, the 37-year-old, who calls himself a “moderate Libertarian,” said he plans to throw down the gauntlet.
“My view is, if we can get into the last debate — the last debate is less than two weeks before the election — anything can happen at that point,” Sarvis said. “If we can be in the midteens going into the debate and I equip myself well, I think I can come out of that much higher.”
Even if Sarvis doesn’t secure any more votes after Oct. 24, though, he could still affect future elections if he can maintain his double-digit status.
According to Virginia state law, if Sarvis can claim at least 10 percent of the electorate, he could earn the Libertarian Party official recognition in the state and assure its nominee a spot on the statewide ballot in the next general election.
“That’s where it’s pretty darn important,” said Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center for Public Policy and chairman of the Department of Government at Christopher Newport University.
“If suddenly there’s a third major party, then whenever there are allocations that go to the two major parties, that third party has to be considered,” Kidd said.
A third party’s inclusion would be a significant victory, Kidd said, not just for Libertarians, but for all independent candidates and voters.
“A lot of people argue that those structural limitations are how third parties are tapped out of power,” he said.
“The Republicans and Democrats have multiple volunteers from every precinct, have people at the polls every day, have people knocking on doors in every precinct, and that’s a result of the two-party system,” he said.
If he can build that sort of infrastructure for a third party, Sarvis said, that’s an accomplishment in and of itself.
Kidd, however, isn’t convinced it can be pulled off.
“I don’t know if those numbers will stick come Election Day or not,” Kidd said.
In the first place, he said, a number of those 10-percenters simply won’t vote.
“I would be surprised if he goes over 5 percent,” Kidd said.
In the second place, he added, several likely voters pulling for Sarvis appear to be doing so in protest.
“He’s the non-McAuliffe, non-Cuccinelli candidate,” Kidd said. “For people who are not excited by Cuccinelli or McAuliffe, I think for them, Sarvis is the other choice.”
And when it comes to Election Day, Kidd said, that simply isn’t enough to win an election — or even pull double digits.
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