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Libertarian Candidate for Governor Could Leave Mark on VA - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Libertarian Candidate for Governor Could Leave Mark on VA

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Robert Sarvis Robert Sarvis

It's probably safe to say that Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis will not be Virginia's next governor - but if the third party candidate wins just one in 10 votes next Tuesday, he could have a huge impact on Virginia elections for years to come.

Many people still don't know much about Libertarian Robert Sarvis. He was not included in any of the three gubernatorial debates, and his fundraising totals less than half of a percent of each of the major party candidates.

But Sarvis could leave a big mark on Virginia.

"I think it will open up the process, it will make it easier for third party and independent candidates to get their message across," said James Lark, vice chair of the Libertarian Party of Virginia

According to Virginia law, any party that can win 10 percent or more of the total votes cast in a statewide election will receive official recognition from the state. Right now, Sarvis is polling right at the 10 percent threshold.

"I am honestly very surprised, but I think it's a reflection of just how Virginians feel about the two major party candidates," said Geoff Skelley, political analyst at the UVA's Center for Politics.

If Sarvis manages to win one in 10 votes on November 5, the Libertarian Party would be vested with the same powers as the Republican and Democratic parties. It would also secure Libertarian candidates a spot on any state or local ballot in Virginia through 2021.

"Even those voters who don't necessarily agree with the Libertarians may want to have the Libertarians in the debate," said Lark.

But Sarvis faces clear challenges. Three out of four voters still know little about him, and no third candidate in modern Virginia political history has won more than three percent of the vote in a gubernatorial election - let alone 10. 

But Sarvis has already defied expectations, and he might be able to do it again. In a poll last week, about a quarter of Sarvis supporters say there's a good chance they'll change their mind before next Tuesday.

Analysts do expect Sarvis to outperform many past third party candidates, but say it's unlikely he garners 10 percent of the vote.

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