is the Libertarian Party’s candidate for governor in Virginia this year, and is so far doing surprisingly well in the polls for that party, Robert Sarvis coming in recently at 10 percent in a Washington Post poll.
With a law degree from New York University, a master’s in economics from George Mason University, and a Google Grand Prize in the company's Android Development challenge in his past, this married 37-year-old father of two is trying to appeal across the libertarian spectrum of “leave us alone” with a slogan of “Virginia: open minded and open for business.”
Predictably, the office of Republican gubernatorial candidate, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, is saying a vote for Sarvis is essentially a vote for Democratic Party candidate Terry McAuliffe. Senior Editor Brian Doherty interviewed Sarvis by phone yesterday about the joys and travails of a surprisingly lively third party campaigner.
Reason: What possessed you to run for office?
Robert Sarvis: I had a long-standing interest in public policy, and became increasingly frustrated with what I saw as bad policy from both Republicans and Democrats. With the financial crisis and recession and housing crash and the responses to that, I became sure politicians didn’t understand what was going on and weren’t really thinking through the likely outcomes of their policy choices and were too much in bed with big business and big banks.
In my area, in 2011 state elections, I saw a bunch of uncontested races—in Virginia’s House of Delegates and Senate often incumbents don’t have challengers—and decided, let’s give it a try, see if I like politicking. I couldn’t be doing this race without [his first race as a Republican candidate for state Senate in 2011 in the 35th district—he got the nomination uncontested]. I learned about politics, got comfortable talking to voters. I got no particular support from the state [Republican] Party, just local volunteers helping out at polling location. [Sarvis got 36 percent of the vote, spending a mere $26,000] That district is fairly strongly liberal Democrat.
Reason: Why are you running outside the Republican Party now?
Sarvis: I got sick of the broken promises of Republicans on economic policy. In Virginia in 2009 the Republicans won the governorship and lieutenant governorship and in 2011 they achieved an effective majority in the state Senate—it’s a tie but the lieutenant governor is the tiebreaker. [The Republicans] had the House, Senate and governor’s office and we didn’t get tax reform, didn’t get regulatory reform, didn’t get school choice, that was frustrating. [The Party’s] social policy took a rightward direction and the GOP in Virginia is very socially conservative. I no longer really cared to invest in the GOP.
When I saw who the candidates were going to be this time around, it was terrible choices and [he began communicating with the state Libertarian Party]. I got support from Libertarian Booster PAC, 10 grand [most of which went for 10,000 signatures needed for ballot access, with at least 400 from each of 11 congressional districts]. A guy working with that PAC had run for delegate near me and knew I was interested in running for something else. He floated the idea, I was interested.