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The Libertarian Party candidate governor should get a chance to debate.
Friday, July 19, 2013
When Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe face off Saturday in their first gubernatorial debate, Robert Sarvis will not be onstage with them.
Most Virginians can be forgiven for wondering who he is and why in the world he would feel entitled to his own podium. He is the Libertarian Party candidate for governor. He met state requirements that he collect petitions with the signatures of at least 10,000 registered voters.
Getting his name on the November ballot was no small feat, but the 36-year-old Northern Virginian thus far hasn’t shown the organizational verve necessary to make a dent in state polls. Just 7 percent of Virginia voters in a Public Policy Polling survey this week said Sarvis was their guy, and it’s possible that many of them were merely signaling their dislike for the other two guys.
Organizers of the Virginia Bar Association debate have a right to set their own criteria for participation. They also have cause to worry that if Sarvis used their forum to press one of his chief issues, privatization of state liquor stores, the audience might run screaming from the room.
True to his libertarian creds, Sarvis’ list of policy proposals contains items that would make both Democrats and Republicans squirm. He favors universal school choice through tax credits, vouchers and charter schools. He would legalize marijuana. He would consider eliminating income taxes, which pay for two-thirds of state government operations. He favors recognition of same-sex marriage.
Third party candidates don’t typically hew to the script followed by major party pols. They may expound at length on issues both esoteric and irritating. But they also offer fresh perspectives and challenge the status quo.
Sarvis isn’t ready to deliver the State of the Commonwealth speech anytime soon, but he is a bona fide candidate for governor, and he deserves some time in front of the microphone before the debate season ends.
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