Robert Sarvis and his family (Photo courtesy of Robert Sarvis)
McLEAN, Va.—Libertarian Virginia gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis stressed during an interview with the Washington Blade last week that he is running to give commonwealth voters “another choice and a better choice.”
“[I’m] somebody who’s talking about issues that would otherwise go untalked about,” he said during an interview before former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli squared off in their latest debate that took place at the Capital One Conference Center in McLean. “[I’m running] to make sure there’s a candidate that’s talking about freedom across the board — both economic freedom and personal liberty.”
Recent polls suggest that Sarvis, 37, has become a factor in Cuccinelli’s gradual loss of support among Virginia voters over the last several weeks.
A Washington Post-Abt SRBI poll released two days before the September 25 debate found 47 percent of likely Virginia voters support McAuliffe, compared to 39 percent who support Cuccinelli and 10 percent who back Sarvis. A survey that Quinnipiac University conducted between Sept. 9-15 found McAuliffe ahead of Cuccinelli by a 44-41 percent margin. Seven percent of respondents said they support Sarvis.
“When you look at all the polls together, it becomes pretty clear that a lot of my support is coming from independents,” Sarvis told the Blade. “There’s support coming from people who are very much dissatisfied with their party’s candidate. And it comes fairly equally from both sides.”
Sarvis, who lives in Annandale in Fairfax County with his wife Astrid and their two children, left the Republican Party in 2011 after he unsuccessfully challenged current Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax County.)
“I was a fairly explicitly moderate, libertarian Republican,” Sarvis said. “I learned that the Republican Party just isn’t a good vehicle for liberty candidates. The move to the Libertarian Party kind of frees me up to push hard on the things that I believe in.”
Sarvis ran his first television campaign ad during the September 25 debate between McAuliffe and Cuccinelli. He also highlightedhis support of nuptials for gays and lesbiansover the summer in an online spot that highlighted the landmark 1967 U.S. Supreme Court case that found the commonwealth’s ban on interracial marriages unconstitutional.
Sarvis said in the ad he may not have been able to marry his wife if Richard and Mildred Loving hadn’t challenged the Virginia law that deemed their D.C. marriage illegal.
“Today Virginia is still not for all lovers,” Sarvis said. “That’s why I want to honor the Loving legacy and lead the fight now in this election to recognize same-sex marriage in Virginia.”
Sarvis stressed to the Blade that some Virginia voters are “deathly afraid” of Cuccinelli becoming the commonwealth’s next governor. He further criticized the attorney general over his decision to appeal three-judge panel’s March ruling that found Virginia’s anti-sodomy law unconstitutional.
“When did he become a judicial activist, asking a court to rewrite the law from a morals legislation to child protection,” Sarvis said, referring to Cuccinelli’s claim the statute protects children. “He’s pretty not credible on that issue and it just goes to show he’s just out of the mainstream on it.”
Sarvis said he feels Republican lieutenant gubernatorial candidate E.W. Jackson is “fairly aligned” with Cuccinelli over their opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples in Virginia and what he described as his anti-gay rhetoric. He added he feels McAuliffe would not prove an effective advocate for LGBT Virginians in spite of his public support for marriage rights for gays and lesbians in the commonwealth.
“I’m in a really unique position to push that forward, to reach out to people in the GOP and explain to them why it’s such an important issue and why the GOP is wrong,” Sarvis said, referring to strong opposition to the issue in the Virginia House of Delegates. “Starting from the premise that it’s not going to pass is a huge mistake.”
Sarvis said he also supports employment protections for gay employees and LGBT-inclusive discrimination provisions to any group that receives a state subsidy.
“People in public employment should not be discriminated against,” he said. “If you’re employed by the state, certainly the state shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.”