In a race where he was polling with a double-digit lead only last week, Democrat Terry McAuliffe won the Virginia governor's race in a squeaker tonight, with a margin of victory of just over 2 percent, receiving 47.6 percent to Republican Ken Cuccinelli's 45.42 percent. For libertarians the bigger news might be that Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis pulled 6.6 percent, or more than 142,000 votes, five times the vote total Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson won in the state last November, despite a significantly lower turnout. Democrats tried to make the election against Cuccinelli a referendum on "Tea Party extremists," and by that measure they lost, Cuccinelli's margin of defeat being about two-thirds the size of Mitt Romney's last year.
Cuccinelli supporters called Sarvis a spoiler before the polling places even opened, with Ron Paul going so far as to say it would be "insane" for anyone to vote for Sarvis because he expressed support for the idea of a mileage tax, something the Reason Foundation's Adrian Moore believes is worth a try. At campaign rallies, Sarvis pointed out the tax doesn't require GPS tracking—a standard odometer already tracks mileage. Scott Shackford pointed out last week that Sarvis drew support both from Democrats and Republicans, something that suggests libertarianism's potency as a catalyst for coalition-building around issues of freedom. Nevertheless, some Republicans disappointed by such a close loss are sure to blame Sarvis anyway, believing his votes "belonged" to the GOP, an argument Nick Gillespie rightly took down last week too.
In the other governor's race tonight, Libertarian Kenneth Kaplan won .6 percent of the vote, the same as Gary Johnson in that state last year, in an election that saw Republican Chris Christie win re-election in a landslide in the traditionally blue state of New Jersey.