Virginia

Meet the Libertarian Running for Governor of Virginia

Robert Sarvis, a lawyer-turned-economist-turned-techie, aims to be Virginia's next governor.

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Virginia voters confronting their choices for governor this year feel much as Woody Allen once did: "More than at any other time in history," Allen wrote, "mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly."

The Democrats have nominated the only man in their party to step up: Terry McAuliffe. Denounced – by liberals, no less – as a soulless political hack, McAuliffe is running on the strength of his business acumen, even though his more recent ventures look less like Steve Jobs than Harold Hill. The Republicans have nominated Ken Cuccinelli, who is denounced – by conservatives, no less – as a strident extremist whose views on social issues make Cotton Mather look like Caligula.

This might be the only race in recent history where the candidates' approval ratings go down as their name recognition goes up. The consensus among those who know something about political horse racing holds that most Virginians will be voting against a candidate rather than for one. So some voters may take solace in knowing there is a Door No. 3: Robert Sarvis.

The 36-year-old Sarvis has some things going for him: He has submitted 17,000 petition signatures, or 7,000 more than required to get on the ballot. He is, to put it mildly, smart – having earned degrees in math from Harvard and Cambridge, then a law degree from NYU, then a master's in economics from GMU. He is a native Virginian. Half-Asian, with an African-American wife, he is bulletproof on diversity grounds. He is wonkish: As a fellow at GMU's Mercatus Center, he co-authored, among other things, a paper on America's historical experience with fiscal stimuli. And he is a technological innovator: He was a winner of Google's 2008 Android Developer challenge for mobile apps.

But Sarvis also has some things working against him. He is running on the Libertarian ticket, which almost always is a ticket to oblivion. He has never held public office. This is a major shortcoming for a gubernatorial candidate and could be an even greater one for any governor not named Schwarzenegger. (Sarvis disagrees: He says elective experience does not equal managerial ability.) Granted, Sarvis shares that shortcoming with Terry McAuliffe. Some consolation.

At least McAuliffe would have the institutional backing of the Democratic Party. This would help him advance his agenda (which is not necessarily a good thing) while thwarting the GOP (which could be). As a third-party officeholder, Sarvis would have occasional sympathizers in both parties, but allies in neither. Then again, he points out that "each of my opponents is held in such low esteem by members of the opposite party that their 'effectiveness' may well be extremely circumscribed." Besides, he says, effectiveness is overrated: Who wants "a governor who can easily ram through a few dozen hyper-partisan bills"?

Still, Sarvis could wind up a caretaker. A caretaker governor might actually benefit Virginia – which is well-managed, has a generally good tax and regulatory climate, and confronts no immediate crisis. Should a crisis arise, though, little benefit would come from having a noob at the helm.

Not that anyone has to worry. The last candidate to make an independent bid for governor in Virginia – Republican Russ Potts – won 2 percent of the vote. The last Libertarian to do so, William Redpath, won 0.8 percent.

Sarvis might do better. The nation is having a bit of a libertarian moment just now. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is a rising star, which has earned him notice from The Washington Post and brickbats from The New Republic, which portrays him as a dangerous radical. Radicals without influence are objects of mirth, not fear.

Given the widespread dismay over Virginia's two major-party candidates, Sarvis could rack up a larger protest vote, percentage-wise, than any independent since Ross Perot. To do so, he first will have to convince the public it need not choose between despair and extinction in order to choose correctly.

This article originally appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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  1. …a strident extremist whose views on social issues make Cotton Mather look like Caligula.

    I LOLed at that one.

  2. Alt Text: “I kind of look like John Boy Walton…without that big mole mountain on my cheek.”

  3. “mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction.

    The sheeple have spoken, we choose both!

    1. And on the gripping hand is enslavement by aliens.

      1. If anyone has their politics perfected it is the Moties.

        1. They are true “role players”

  4. Wow, that was among the most horse-racish, least substantive political stories I’ve read in quite a while.

    Looking up Sarvis’s positions on the issues, I find that the one issue on which this Libertarian candidate chose to be moderate was the issue which concerns the right to life, and the right of human beings to be free from arbitrary outlawry by their own government.

    And as a “moderate,” he opposes some of the most significant pieces of prolife legislation passed in Virginia’s history:

    http://www.timesdispatch.com/o…..31c9d.html

  5. This guy will not get over 5% of the vote, and even 5% is probably a stretch.

    He’s not on a team. How do we know who to vote for if they’re not on our team? Derrr!

    Rand Paul has already shown how you get elected as a Libertarian. You run as a Republican and pretend like you are not really a Libertarian.

    1. Kind of like how you get elected as a socialist.

    2. Rand Paul’s strategy wouldn’t work in Virginia, which has one of the least-libertarian state GOP organizations in the country. Virginia’s GOP loves mediocrities like George Allen and Bob McDonnell.

    3. I would bet good money that he won’t break 3%.

  6. The nation is having a bit of a libertarian moment just now.

    The nation may be, Barton, but Virginia is most certainly not. The demographics are shifting towards government employees and contractors in Northern Virginia, and there isn’t much libertarianism to be found in that crowd.

    That said, Sarvis certainly has my vote.

  7. Nope. For all his flaws, Coochi is still the man libertarians should support. His flaws are in things that don’t or won’t matter and he is right where it counts.

    1. I have a policy of always voting for the best candidate, regardless of the odds. Choosing the lesser of two evils is simply unpalatable.

    2. It’s good to know that being totally fucking insane doesn’t matter. I’m glad I have the option of voting for Sarvis. Otherwise I’d have to abstain or write in my own name.

  8. I think it’s time to stop listening to anyone who says a third-party vote is always a waste and a gift to an undesirable major-party candidate. Ralph Nader correctly said that Al Gore had to earn his votes (and if he’d won his nominal home state of Tennessee, Florida wouldn’t have mattered), and that’s every bit as true today. If everyone who isn’t a total party loyalist would vote for the alternative candidates of their choice, whomever and whatever they may be, then maybe the dilution of major-party votes would reinforce the concept of “the consent of the governed.”

    1. Exactly. Since a single vote never matters anyway, why waste the time doing it to vote for something you don’t believe in? Doing that way, in the end, you just end up as one of the millions of sheep who apparently likes a douche bag. Unless you really like people assuming you endorse douche bags, it doesn’t accomplish anything.

  9. “Should a crisis arise, though, little benefit would come from having a noob at the helm.”

    Absolutely!! A NOOB won’t be able to ram through a (state-level) stimulus or A PATRIOT Act. HOW HORRIBLE!! Think about the CHILDREN!! Not a NOOB!!

    1. The “experience” argument is notoriously a double-edged sword.

      But tho’ I’m not a Virginian, I would point out that The Cooch has some experience going to court to oppose federal overreaching, eg, with Obamacare and environmental power-grabs.

      1. I can buy that argument, but the way it was used was in referencing a “crisis” and that hardly describes trying to use the courts to limit federal overreach.

        Also, I would make the argument that more damage is done by “experienced” politicians with party agendas than by independent pols absent a Big Two party agenda.

  10. I was talking about this race with an “independent” friend of mine recently. She’s not really liberal but her one big issue is “women’s rights”, so of course she hates Cuccinelli with a burning passion. I tried to point out that McAuliffe was the worst sort of unprincipled partisan hack and she immediately misconstrued my words as undying support of Cuccinelli. This is why I don’t talk politics with non-libertarians.

  11. The article mentions Sarvis’ Asian relatives and African-American wife to bolster his multicultural bona fides. Anyone care to look at the impact of abortion on Asians and blacks?

    And for the guy whose friend was worried about “women’s rights” – who do you think are at greater risk of being aborted, males or females?

  12. As a Virginian who only decided to vote for the GOP’s gubernatorial candidate, McDonnell, because his main issue was privatizing the ABC stores, and then he totally punted that issue after the least resistance from the Democrats, I am SO GLAD to have a Libertarian to vote for this time. The fact that McDonnell’s legacy is that of tax hikes “for transportation” makes me quite angry, as I spent some time a while ago working for VDOT, and know why it can’t keep up with the demands of the Commonwealth. Lack of taxes ain’t it. I’m also definitely not happy with the RPV’s socially conservative emphasis, to the detriment of reasonable action in fiscal policy. The RPV can go eff itself.

  13. Meh. I’m still gonna abstain.

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