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Libertarian brings bid for governor to area

Robert Sarvis says he’s the moderate in this year’s field of gubernatorial candidates.

Sarvis, 36, is running as a Libertarian and trying to break the stigma of being a third-party candidate, while drumming up support around the state.

He spoke to about 20 people at a pizzeria in Spotsylvania County on Tuesday night, apparently earning some of their votes with his hour-long speech and discussion.

“The two major party candidates really embody what’s wrong with the main parties,” Sarvis said, calling Democrat candidate Terry McAuliffe a “money man” and Republican candidate Ken Cucinelli “inconsistent” and “extremist.”

“You cannot trust Republicans or Democrats to get corporations out of government and to return to a system of rule of law.”

Sarvis, running with the slogan “open-minded and open for business,” supports expanding personal freedoms through marriage equality, restoring civil liberties and legalizing marijuana; and expanding economic freedoms with tax relief, reduced bureaucracy and school choice.

Sarvis lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, a pediatrician, and their two children.

He grew up as a “default” Republican in a fiscally conservative family, but college changed his outlook, especially on economics. He has degrees in mathematics from Harvard University and the University of Cambridge, a juris doctorate from New York University School of Law, and a master’s in economics from George Mason University.

Sarvis said that he’s been preparing for this particular race for some time, citing his studies, a failed race for the state senate in Northern Virginia as a Republican, and relationships with family and friends. “There’s so many experiences in my life that make me want to fight for freedom,” Sarvis said.

Sarvis said his highest priority is education reform through universal school choice in Virginia. That could include tax credits, school vouchers and charter schools, which would maximize parents’ choices in their children’s education, he said. Such changes could create competition and empower teachers, he said.

Transportation issues could also be relieved by a less-centralized bureaucracy, with increased competition and open markets, he told the group.

This year’s race is a key time for the state and the country, he said, adding that even if he doesn’t win, little victories can impact future discussions and outcomes.

“If a Libertarian gets elected governor, that changes everything,” Sarvis said, saying votes would be focused on the value of freedom and rule of law. “It would be such a strong message to the rest of the country to elect someone who is not beholden to the money interests or to the Republican and Democratic parties. The fact that I get elected, the fact that I beat the major parties, it would just make every single issue unlike the way they were before.”

He convinced Uneque Gaines, 23, formerly a Democratic supporter. “I felt like I could really relate to him, like talking to a friend,” she said after listening to Sarvis and posing for a photograph with him, which she added would be her new Facebook profile. “He wasn’t trying to be a politician, and just said what he believed in.”

Her boyfriend, Jason Feimster, had long been trying to promote Libertarian ideals, she said, and now she’s been won over.

Feimster, 27, suggested to Sarvis that he needs to be in front of the voters more, perhaps even through Google Hangouts, a form of social media, and hopes that voters will publicly state their support for a third-party candidate, which could reduce the stigma attached.

“I challenge people to dig into their own reasons and find whatever’s important to you, and find out where he stands, and compare the candidates,” he said.

Supporters hoped that the candidate would be able to participate in some of the debates, which could increase his recognition.

According to Sarvis, tax relief should be simpler, applied equally, and rational.

That appeals to Bob Buchanan of Stafford, who identifies himself as an independent. “He has the most sense of any of the candidates,” Buchanan said, adding though that he doesn’t agree with all of the Libertarian ideals, such as drug legalization, but would like to see the state income tax removed.

He hopes to help Sarvis gain more attention, and subsequently, more votes.

“If they’re as angry at Republicans and Democrats as I am, maybe they’ll vote for him. And that’d be cool.”

Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975