Libertarian Party

Libertarian Cliff Hyra Polling Near the Point-Spread in the Tight Virginia Governor's Race

As Ed Gillespie pulls within three percentage points of Ralph Northam, attention turns toward the mild-mannered intellectual property lawyer looking to follow in Robert Sarvis's footsteps.


My oh my, what a wonderful day! ||| Cliff Hyra
Cliff Hyra

Though there is officially Too Much News happening at once right now (did you hear the one about Bono using a Maltese tax shelter to buy a shopping center in Lithuania, NTTAWWT?), you can bet that the hardcore electoral-politics junkies in your Twitter feed are finding time to obsess over tomorrow's gubernatorial election in Virginia, where former Republican National Committee chair Ed Gillespie is gaining on Democratic front-runner Ralph Northam, currently the commonwealth's lieutenant governor. Widely seen as a referendum on culture-war Trumpism, and a possible harbinger of the 2018 congressional midterms, the tightening race (with its mutual accusations of race-baiting) has Democrats and Republicans on knife's edge.

Which can mean only one thing for Libertarians. Spoiler alert!

L.P. nominee Cliff Hyra, an intellectual property lawyer with a degree in aerospace engineering (see A. Barton Hinkle's profile of him here), is polling consistently (if somewhat down since summer) between 2 and 3 percent, tantalizingly close to the average 3-point lead Northam has held over Gillespie across the past 10 state polls. The self-described "grown-up in the room" despite his mere 35 years, Hyra sounds a lot like Gary Johnson and Bill Weld in decrying the incivility of two-party politics in 2017. "I fear for the future of our commonwealth and of our nation, when even the most staid candidates feel that they have to descend to this level of discourse to win an election, and are willing to do so," he said at a press conference Thursday. He likes criminal justice reform, dislikes President Donald Trump's "divisive" rhetoric, and promises to treat every Virginian (including his political opponents) with "respect."

So will Hyra beat the spread between Northam and Gillespie? There are a couple of reasons to be skeptical. The first is that third-party candidates almost always fade down the stretch, particularly in close elections. My rule of thumb is that you can generally shave off one-third of a third-party candidate's last polling average, and you'll get much closer to the end result. Gary Johnson's final poll numbers, for example were 4.8 percent nationwide, 4.4 in Virginia; he ended up with 3.3 and 3.0, respectively. Applying that formula to Hyra's 2.5 percent average in his last 10 polls gives you a downwardly adjusted expectation of 1.7 percent. And as those numbers for Johnson also indicate, the commonwealth hasn't exactly been a stronghold for national L.P. candidates.

||| Sarvis-for-governor campaign
Sarvis-for-governor campaign

But locally the story is much different. The last time Virginia elected a governor, Libertarian Robert Sarvis received 6.5 percent of the vote, well over the 2.6-point margin between winning Democrat Terry McAuliffe and losing Republican Ken Cuccinelli (both of whom were widely despised, and with reason). It was, as Brian Doherty wrote at the time, "the third largest vote percentage any Libertarian has ever won for any governor's race," and "the best third party result for any party in the South for a gubernatorial candidate in 40 years." While embittered Republicans were quick to make the "spoiler" charge, "an exit poll of Sarvis voters showed that they would have voted for McAuliffe by a two-to-one margin over Cucinelli," Nick Gillespie noted then.

Then just one year later, Sarvis was back at it, drawing 2.43 percent of the vote in a U.S. Senate race won by incumbent Democrat Mark Warner by just 0.81 percentage points over—you guessed it!—Ed Gillespie. (There the Libertarian's impact on the major-party race was much more disputed.) At any rate, there is some muscle memory among the Virginia electorate and political class to take Libertarians at least somewhat seriously. This is also the case among pollsters, who have been including Hyra in most every survey, making it difficult to tease out what the "Hyra effect" might be on the two-party race.

So are there any lessons about Hyra's candidacy we can glean here on Election Eve? I would suggest three exceedingly modest ones: 1) The Libertarian Party keeps reinforcing its place as the third party in American politics (no other party has a gubernatorial candidate in Virginia). 2) At least in this one race, we have a candidate cut more from the Johnson/Weld cloth of being comparatively normal and strategically nice, as opposed to blue-faced or stridently nationalist. And 3) Like Johnson/Weld and in fact Sarvis before him, Hyra was shut out from the debates and seems destined for those all-too-familiar single digits.

NEXT: This Activist is Prying Loose Missouri Drug Task Force Records One Lawsuit At a Time

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      1. I go for the low-hanging fruit.


        1. Is that why you prowl the assisted living facilities with a Bingo ball blower?

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    1. Why does every goddamn libertarian candidate in Virginia have to be a graduate of that uberdork nerd high school in Annandale?

      1. ‘Cause they’re never going back to their old school?

        1. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about:

      2. Because they never learned how to interact with real life women and are always seeing the logical side of things?

  1. So Nick Sarvis is a candidate to be proud of? The guy who didn’t favor tax cuts, supported Medicaid expansion, and wanted a miles driven tax on cars (which would require some sort of government GPS system installed in cars)?

    This is just a team sport now, right?

    1. A miles driven tax is a way to price the use of public services efficiently. It is far more effective than gas taxes (which under tax many drivers) or registration taxes (as someone could register a car and barely drive) or value based taxes (which over taxes expensive vehicles that may actually cause less wear on the roads).

      It also wouldn’t require a government GPD. You could get your odometer read once a year.

      I’m not in favor of increasing taxes, but if I have to be taxed, I would rather the tax be efficient and accurately reflect the government services and products used.

      1. “(which under tax many drivers)”

        I’ve never heard such a thing as ‘under tax’. I guess I accidentally clicked on Salon

        1. How do you propose paying for roads? The two most efficient ways to do it are either a mileage tax or a toll. Milton Friedman regularly argued for usage based taxes which tolls or mileage taxes would be. But I’m sure he was a Salon socialist too.

          1. General fund, taxes on vehicles, taxes on gas, taxes on tires- take your pick.

            1. Hey all those things already exist. I guess we don’t need anymore taxes. Nick Sarvis hardest hit

          2. Actually a land tax is the best way of covering the base costs of roads. Usage based taxes are fine for things which are mostly variable cost structure. They are very poor for fixed cost structure stuff.

      2. Reading my odometer doesn’t tell you how many miles I have driven on Virginia roads. Moreover, it is a invasion of privacy. There are values other than efficiency. Sarvos was a joke of a candidate.

        1. Regarding the invasion of privacy aspect, Virginia has an annual safety inspection so they know your odometer reading from year to year anyway.
          I’d prefer not to give that information at all, but at least it wouldn’t require a *new* invasion of privacy.

        2. To dan’s point, VA already does the inspection (as does several other states). Every state also records the mileage at the point of sale/title transfer.

          My goal is paying as little tax as possible, so efficiency is one of the primary criteria for me. In this case, it would eliminate other taxes, and it is not such a terrible idea that it should be dismissed out of hand.

          Or of course, we can keep subsidizing and mandating electric and fuel efficient cars while putting the cost of roads on gas consumption. Then when there is a transportation funding shortfall and government officials prioritize public transportation and showy new projects that they can be seen at ribbon cutting ceremonies we can continue to exacerbate the problem of poor maintenance.

          1. So eliminating government spying on your mileage is not your concern. Reforming government is. So we’ve gone from reducing the size of government to reforming government.

            Sounds a lot more Reform Party than Libertarian Party

  2. Either stop claiming that neither of the major parties are entitled to Libertarian’s votes or stop claiming that Libertarians candidates are spoilers because both can’t be true.

  3. Haha, oh shit, i just noticed that picture was taken like a block and a half from my house.

    1. Someone wants to chill on a bridge with Casual Cliff.

      1. It’s not really a bridge. It’s more of a faux-wood boardwalk that runs over some tide pools next to a boat ramp. I’m’a take my dog over there to pee on it later.

          1. Stay away from my dog, Crusty.

    2. I see no orphans.

      Does your local zoning require they stay underground? Do do you simply keep them closer to your compound?

      1. You can’t see them because they’re diving for oysters in the river.

    3. If you zoom in, you can see a clowder of cats in the window of the house in the back, and some bearded dude rubbing himself down with something oily.

      1. That house is inhabited by a chubby* middle-aged lady who owns a golden retriever, which she keeps in the tiny, marshy backyard, where it barks and barks.

        *Apologies to John for the jerkable imagery during work hours, but as a government attorney, he’s not doing anything productive anyway.

    4. At first I didn’t realize he was leaning on something and thought the photo had been taken in mid dance move.

  4. It’s the populism problem. Libertarians aren’t going to fare well in that atmosphere because it isn’t about policy, the Constitution, etc. Rather, it’s about hysteria, slogans and a football game mentality.

    Establishment politicians using populism is on the rise, because they’re opportunists. It’s politically expedient right now.

    1. So then the actual political result can be just about anything, right? Aside from the very few things affected by the hysteria, slogans, and the mentality that I wish my actual football players had had this season.

  5. So basically you’re saying the goal is to swing close elections to the Democrats?

  6. Just voted and there was a line at my deep blue precinct polling place in Alexandria. Maybe it was the time I was voting, but I didn’t notice one last year (aka the most important election ever), so it doesn’t bode well for the GOP. I voted for Hyra FWIW, and if my one vote out of millions cast fucks up the election for either Northam or Gillespie, I will feel very proud of myself!

  7. Libertarians have to take over one of the two main parties, as Trump has done with the GOP.

    Trump is running the GOP into the ground. White welfarism and nationalist authoritarianism are not long term winners.

    Republicans are going to lose in the 2018 midterms. Trump would certainly lose in 2020 against any half serious Democrat – he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton in what should have been an easy election for any Republican.

    Libertarians should focus on finding and recruiting more charismatic or celebrity “leaders” for primary challenges against incumbent Republicans and Democrats in 2020 and beyond.

    1. The problem is that no celebrity wants to be associated with a party that has zero chance of winning and they have the money to run as an independent if they don’t want to be a D or R.

      As for charisma, libertarians have a serious image problem here-dorks at best, or antisocial crazies at worst. The only way a libertarian might be able to win is if an established D or R decides to run as one, and good luck with that!

  8. Unfortunately, what we got was the fight-for-15-er who pals around with racialists and slanderers.

  9. The race wasn’t close, this candidate irrelevant.

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