Sarvis Says He Wasn't 'Obama Puppet' Bowling for Cuccinelli

Virginia Libertarian reflects on his race for governor, frustrations and lessons learned.

Robert Sarvis speaks at Glen Maury Park on Sept. 2, 2013, in Buena Vista, Va
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Robert Sarvis captured 6.5 percent of the vote in Virginia's gubernatorial election Tuesday. The Libertarian's campaign was derided by some opponents as a dirty trick that doomed Republican Ken Cuccinelli.

Sarvis says that's not true.

"Am I an Obama puppet or am I a GOP puppet? I tend to think neither," he told U.S. News on Wednesday. "The GOP had a concerted effort to misrepresent my policy positions [and] this was one last-ditch effort to do so."

Cuccinelli received 45.3 percent of the vote, losing to Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who received 47.7 percent.

Among the negative press Sarvis received was an Election Day article in The Blaze that reported the Libertarian Booster PAC – which gave in-kind donations totalling $11,454 to Sarvis, mostly for ballot petitioning – received $150,000 in January from Joe Liemandt, a wealthy Democratic donor who also gives to Libertarians.

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"The donor in question didn't donate to my campaign," Sarvis counters. "He donated to a Libertarian PAC well before I got into the race." Many direct campaign donors, he said, gave to Republicans in the past.

Other frustrations for the candidate included libertarian idol and former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, saying at a Monday pre-election rally for Cuccinelli that voting for Sarvis would be "insane."


Paul condemned Sarvis – although not by name – for supposedly supporting a car mileage tax and praised Cuccinelli – who he dubbed "a defender of freedom" – for suing the federal government over the 2010 health insurance law.

"[Ron Paul] was basically spoon-fed the GOP misinformation campaign," Sarvis said, speculating he was also "investing in the GOP infrastructure for the benefit of his son," Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who is considering a 2016 presidential campaign.

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"It's easy for people outside Virginia, like Ron Paul, to not realize how illiberal and unlibertarian Cuccinelli is," Sarvis said. "They only know about some big-ticket things like fighting Obamacare," and not how the Republican "wants the government in your bedroom."

He also denies ever endorsing a mileage tax, which some press reports, including an Oct. 31 article in the National Journal, said could require government-installed GPS devices in cars.

"I listed several items that are closer to user-pays than a sales tax [to fund transportation]," Sarvis said. "In the smear campaign that got turned around to me endorsing the mileage tax specifically."

Sarvis' campaign featured support for legalizing marijuana, permitting same-sex marriage and embracing new immigrants. He also supported gun rights, school choice and undoing federal health care regulations.

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Exit polling shows he performed best among voters aged 18-29 – winning around 15 percent of that group – and among independents – also winning around 15 percent. Approximately 9 percent of unmarried voters backed him, the exit polling found, as did 23 percent of voters motivated by dislike of other candidates.

The exit polling found a similar share of Democrats and Republicans voted Libertarian.

For Libertarians, Sarvis reflects, embracing socially liberal policies "creates more allies on the left as well as the right" and "attracts a lot of young people."

"The older generation of libertarians – like Ron Paul – were kind of illiberal on things like trade and innovation and, in some cases, drugs," he added. "Younger libertarians are more across-the-board libertarians."

Positive lessons from his run that can be applied elsewhere, Sarvis said, include "running a mainstream campaign," holding many events and earning media attention. "You have to sell libertarianism on the voters terms, not your own terms," he said.

Sarvis, 37, plans to spend time with his family and write thank you cards before deciding what's next. His career in the past featured jobs at an attorney, math teacher and software engineer. He has an undergraduate math degree from Harvard, a law degree from New York University and a master's degree in economics from George Mason University.