Purple PAC to Sarvis’ rescue?

First, a simple fact: Robert Sarvis will not be the next governor of Virginia.

But his candidacy — and more specifically, his poll numbers — have injected a degree of uncertainty into the gubernatorial race. Just enough to make Republicans edgy. Thus we have the completely understandable effort to tell folks that Sarvis is not a “real” libertarian, as Ben Domenech does, at great length, here.

All of this misses the point. There is no ideal libertarian. There never will be. One could look to the LP itself for a model, but that’s a non-starter as the party is famous for its pitched intramural battles over who is a true believer and who is a heretic.

Robert Sarvis’ party bona fides, then, are a sideshow. (he isn’t a follower of Austrian economics! He’s not a Libertarian! Go argue that point with Milton Friedman’s ghost and see how far it gets you).

The real issue is whether he will earn enough votes to win a ballot spot for the LP in future elections. That requires him to reach 10 percent, something a third-party candidate hasn’t done in Virginia since Marshall Coleman’s Senate bid in 1994 against Chuck Robb and Oliver North.

Coleman’s numbers in that race showed him polling far better than Sarvis is in the current contest. And on election day, Coleman’s numbers collapsed. Like Sarvis, his support was soft. For Sarvis to clear the 10 percent hurdle on election day, then, he needs to be polling well above 15 percent today — and no poll shows such level of support.

If anything, the early voting shows Sarvis may struggle to reach five percent. Where do his supporters go? If the Quinnipiac numbers are accurate, the majority go to Terry McAuliffe.

Seeing the opportunity for ballot status slip away, a group called Purple PAC is spending a good deal of money on ads touting Sarvis. And behind Purple PAC is a name familiar to libertarians everywhere: former Cato Institute president (and my boss a lifetime ago) Ed Crane…

“Both the Republican and Democratic candidates are right about each other,” said Edward H. Crane, president of the Purple PAC. “Ken Cuccinelli is a socially intolerant, hard-right conservative with little respect for civil liberties. Terry McAuliffe is a big government liberal with little respect for economic liberties. Both have been engulfed in scandal. Fortunately, Robert Sarvis offers an alternative, an agenda grounded in free markets and social tolerance.”


The ad buy itself is rather small in the wider scheme of things — $300,000 according to the WaPo. That amounts to little more than noise compared to Terry McAuliffe’s ad buys. But look at the ad spending more closely:

weekly TV buys

According to VPAP’s tracking, Ken Cuccinelli’s ad spending has evaporated.

Purple PAC’s ads just might be hitting at the right time.

But Virginia’s electoral history tells us it won’t work. Then again, everything else we thought we knew about Virginia’s off-year elections appears to be crumbling this year, so could the third-party jinx end, too?

  • Manny

    Wow, what’s up with Ken’s ad spending. Has he just surrendered?

    • Rick_Sincere

      To paraphrase Margaret Thatcher, eventually you run out of other people’s money.

  • Markos_Anderson

    No TV spending by Ken in the last two weeks?


  • S Fisher

    Good grief! That’s why online and tv ads are all McAullife….what the heck is going on?

  • DJRippert

    How does the ballot rule work? If Sarvis gets 10.5% on election day does the 2015 election include an automatic spot for Libertarian candidates? Southwest Virginia is polling 21% Sarvis and 15% None/Don’t Know. While Sarvis won’t be the next governor could getting more than 10% open the door to a few Libertarian state senators or house of delegates members in 2015?

    • NormLeahy

      Here’s the code section — http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+24.2-101

      Get 10 percent, have a state central committee and an elected party chairman, and your party will have ballot access. Finding candidates to fill the ballot line is another matter entirely. And those candidates still have to gather signatures to get their names on the ballot.

  • midwestconservative

    The best polling Cuccinelli had was in September, that also coincidentally was the only time he was competitive in ad buys.

  • midwestconservative

    I’m sure Milton Friedman was all for expanding the welfare state.

    • NormLeahy

      He was worried about incentives. But he was not against a social safety net. His negative income tax was one of his forays into that field.

      • midwestconservative

        But would he have supported an expansion of a clearly inefficient Medicaid program?

  • Rick_Sincere

    I think your assertion is incorrect that, if the Libertarian Party of Virginia wins ballot status upon earning 10 percent of the vote this year, LP candidates will still have to petition to get on the ballot. As I read § 24.2-508 et seq. of the Virginia election code, political parties can set their own rules for qualification for nomination by convention or caucus. (I detect some ambiguity with regard to nominations by primary.) So a party could require nominating petitions, or a filing fee, or nothing at all other than a pledge to support the party’s platform.

    In order to maintain ballot status, however, a statewide LPVA candidate will have to earn 10 percent again no later than 2017. (Ten percent in next year’s U.S. Senate race will extend the party’s ballot status to 2018, as there is no statewide election in 2016 — U.S. President doesn’t count.)

    • NormLeahy

      According to this, everyone needs petition signatures to get their name on the ballot: http://www.sbe.virginia.gov/CandidateForms.html

      Am I reading it wrong?

      • Rick_Sincere

        I’ve participated in many local caucuses to nominate Republican candidates for City Council, Board of Supervisors, House of Delegates, and state Senate, and I’ve never seen a petition for any of the candidates being nominated through that method. Only independent candidates _must_ present a petition of qualified voters to the State Board of Elections. Political parties _may_ require a petition but they do not have to do so.

        Any election lawyers reading this who could clarify the matter? I think requirements for a party primary are different than those for caucuses, unassembled caucuses (firehouse primary), and conventions. I’m open to correction.

        • Sandy Sanders

          Rick Sincere is right. The party can select candidates by convention or primary – if they have 10% or more in one of the last two statewide elections. It is not totally clear what is a statewide election but it would be at least for next US Senate race and maybe the 2017 elections. Some interpret two statewide elections as being the 2017 and 2021 elections. (2021 sounds like a date from a scifi flick doesn’t it? 🙂 )


          • Rick_Sincere

            In 1994, U.S. Senate candidate Marshall Coleman allocated his 10+ percent of the vote to the Reform Party of Virginia, which gained ballot status but never took advantage of it. The Reform Party never ran a candidate for statewide office and therefore lost its ballot status four years later. So U.S. Senate candidates can qualify a party as well as candidates for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General.

          • Richard Winger

            The Reform Party did run statewide candidates, not only in 1996 for president, but in 1997 for Governor. The Reform Party nominee for Governor, Sue Harris DeBauche, got 1.49%, so the party lost its ballot status after the November 1997 election results were known. The Reform Party got 4.48% for Lieutenant Governor in 1997. It also had 4 legislative nominees in 1997. In 1996 it had three US House candidates on the ballot. In 1995 it had three legislative nominees on the ballot.

          • Rick_Sincere

            On questions like this, I will always defer to Richard Winger.

            24.2-945.1 gives this definition: “Statewide office” means the office of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, or Attorney General. (It excludes U.S. Senator or Presidential Elector.)

            That chapter of the code deals with campaign finance regulations, but I can see litigation in the future — at least to raise the question of which candidates’ vote totals count toward party status.

          • Richard Winger

            Thanks, Rick. The campaign finance part of the law has to exclude federal office, because the federal government has pre-empted campaign finance for federal office. But for the definition of “party”, US Senate has to count, because otherwise, in the years before 1991, the major parties would have gone off the ballot if US Senator didn’t count, in years such as 1982 and 1978. Also the 1994 precedent in which Marshall Coleman’s vote for US Senate was used to qualify the Reform Party is telling.

    • Richard Winger

      President does count. 24.2-101 says “political party” means any organization which, at either of the last 2 statewide general elections, received at least 10% for any statewide office filled in that election. Presidential electors are statewide candidates elected in that election. If president didn’t count, then both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party would have gone off the ballot after November 1980. Back then a party had to poll 10% in each statewide election to remain ballot-qualified, and there was no US Senate race on in Virginia in 1980.

  • mezurak

    According to all the charts and graphs, the RPV is still hiding out on Gilligan’s island. The cities are showing as blue contributors and you should know what that means in ballot counts. Wonder what happened to all the ignored Independents? Think they might kick both parties to the curb?

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