It’s clear from the headline and photograph accompanying this editorial that the Danville Register & Bee has — for the first time ever —endorsed a Libertarian candidate for public office.
Our endorsement of Robert Sarvis for governor was in some ways a process of elimination that stemmed from a failure of the Republican and Democratic parties to nominate candidates that we could support — and the voters could have confidence in. This year, the two parties have played a cynical game of "the lesser of two evils."
But a political endorsement has to be about more than just voting for a candidate who is marginally better than the other guy.
We lost confidence in the Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, in August when he responded to a question about GreenTech Automotive locating in Danville this way: "I think they tried very hard to do it, and it didn’t work out."
That was a flippant, crass answer to a question about jobs for the Dan River Region. GreenTech Automotive, as a scandal, has a lot more layers than just jobs being dangled in front of Danville and then sent to Mississippi, and it could continue to haunt McAuliffe if he is elected governor.
Cuccinelli has had his own problems.
He accepted a smaller number of gifts — and later gave the value of those gifts to charity — from the same donor in the gifting scandal that has sullied the reputation of Gov. Bob McDonnell. He also owned more stock in that donor’s company and had to amend a state disclosure form to reflect that stake.
An assistant in Cuccinelli’s office — in her role as legal adviser for the Virginia Gas and Oil Board — worked with the energy companies against what we believe were the best interests of ordinary Virginia citizens. Making matters worse, Cuccinelli has received more than $140,000 in campaign contributions from the parent companies of one of those firms, according to our sister newspaper, the Bristol Herald-Courier. In our view, Cuccinelli should have given those campaign contributions back.
In this year’s gubernatorial race, which candidate is the lesser of two evils?
The fact that we’re asking that question this late in the campaign means that the two-party system has failed to produce a clear favorite for those voters who look not for the party label, but instead want candidates that will inspire, impress and lead them.
We’re inclined to support the Republican candidate in most partisan races, but this year, the GOP passed on a perfectly good candidate — Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling — in favor of Cuccinelli.
Even before the federal government shutdown and without the scandals, Cuccinelli was an extremely conservative politician — far more conservative on social issues than the growing "purple" majority of voters in Virginia’s Urban Crescent. Those views don’t hurt him in the Dan River Region, but it will destroy him in the Urban Crescent. Bolling would have been a good choice to unite Virginians, but the party cast him aside in favor of a convention that led to Cuccinelli’s nomination.
Both the Democrats and Republicans failed to come up with good gubernatorial candidates this year. If we were to endorse either McAuliffe or Cuccinelli, we would be playing their game. "If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got," the saying goes.
Robert Sarvis offers a real alternative this year, a break from the two-party paradigm that has not served us well.
As a Libertarian, Sarvis favors restraints on the size and scope of government. We’re comfortable with that.
"I realized that the Republican Party, at least in Virginia, in the current era, is not a good vehicle for liberty candidates," Sarvis told the Richmond Times-Dispatch in August. "Republicans are very strident on personal issues. When they talk about liberty, they don’t mean any personal issues, there is very little respect for personal autonomy.
"And on economic issues, it’s almost like they don’t believe in what they talk about. They talk about limited government, but they are just as bad as the other party at cronyism, raising taxes and growing government."
If there is one knock on Sarvis’ record, it is this: He has never held elected office. If he wins on Tuesday, he would have to navigate a swamp of partisan politics in Richmond.
But as a conservative, he would be a political kindred spirit with many of the Republicans in the General Assembly. We believe he could be more than just a novelty candidate in 2013, but the kind of governor who inspires confidence from Virginians and respect from other members of the General Assembly.
What we won’t get from Sarvis is a big-government agenda. In a year when so many other things have gone wrong, a young man with a new way of looking at our old problems is just what the Old Dominion needs. We’re not interested in what Robert Sarvis can do for the Libertarian Party; we’re interested in what this young, intelligent and highly-motivated family man can do to change the two-party trap we’ve gotten ourselves into.