Last year, in a three-way race for Governor of Virginia, Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis won 146,084 votes, or 6.5 percent, against Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli. Sarvis fell short of the 10 percent goal that would have awarded major-party ballot status to the Libertarian Party of Virginia.
Earlier this week, Sarvis announced he will be a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2014, running against incumbent Democrat Mark Warner. In a telephone interview with the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner on January 30, Sarvis said he expects there to be no competitor for the nomination when the Libertarian Party's state convention meets in Richmond on February 8 (although all LP nominating contests include “none of the above,” or NOTA, as an option).
Running for statewide office for the second year in a row, Sarvis explained, “makes a lot of sense from the standpoint of trying to build the Libertarian Party and to push back against the growth of government,” as well as to “keep the momentum that we have from last year.”
'Proselytize for freedom'
If the LPVA did not run a slate of candidates for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, he said, “we would lose a lot of mindshare” among voters.
At the same time, he added, “a lot of the themes that I ran on last year apply equally, if not more, to the federal government.”
Running a campaign like this, he said, helps propel “people who are willing to go out there and proselytize for freedom. The best thing to do is to keep the momentum going.”
Since the likely Republican nominee, former state and national GOP chairman Ed Gillespie, “is not going to be a principled supporter of freedom,” Sarvis continued, “it makes total sense that the Libertarian Party is going to be the one that will be out front talking about issues” of limited government and individual liberty.
Asked about allegations that his campaign is being bankrolled by Democrats, Sarvis answered sharply that the charges are “idiotic nonsense.”
'Different approach to politics'
Sarvis acknowledged that his campaign faces an uphill struggle for funding, name recognition, and volunteer support but, he explained, “when the federal government is growing and getting into every aspect of our lives, spying on us, perpetuating a war on drugs, incarcerating huge swaths of our young people,” that is a time when it “makes sense to step back and say maybe we need an entirely different approach to politics.”
He added: “I'm not trying to change everything in one election but the Libertarian Party and Libertarian candidates can have a lot of influence” on the policy debate during campaign season.
Aiming for that 10 percent major-party threshold is still on Sarvis's mind.
Achieving that, he said, “would make political markets in Virginia more open and competitive. I think that's going to be a good thing.”
Sarvis expects to attract more volunteers for his 2014 campaign, based on what he learned during 2013.
“It was really humbling how toward the end, people really, really got behind me,” he noted. “A lot of people said they wished they had heard about the campaign earlier, so that they could have helped out more.”
Marijuana and driving 20,000 miles
Volunteering for his Senate campaign, he pointed out, “is one way they can help the cause of limited government and freedom and [achieving] a more equal, level playing field for everybody.”
On the issues, Sarvis said he would again emphasize marriage equality, although that is more salient this year on the state level than on the federal level, and also talk about marijuana legalization.
“There's no question,” he said, that legalizing cannabis is “going to happen but it should happen sooner rather than later. We should not be afraid to push hard on the issue. It's an issue about justice at its core.”
Sarvis expects to put at least 20,000 miles on the family van this year, just as he did during his gubernatorial campaign in 2013.
“I don't if the van can take it,” he chuckled, “but who knows?”
The Robert Sarvis for U.S. Senate campaign web site is still under construction, he said, but voters can find out more information about it on Facebook and simply doing a web search. Sarvis is also on Twitter as @RobertSarvisVA.