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Government & Politics

Meet Your Libertarian Candidate for Governor, Cliff Hyra

Michael Pope

The race for governor has more than two candidates, although the third man in the race is getting far less attention. Michael Pope spent some time with him on the campaign trail.

Outside the Clarendon Metro station in Arlington on a sweltering afternoon, a candidate for governor is struggling against the summertime heat to get the attention of voters.

“Hi I’m Cliff Hyra. I’m the Libertarian candidate for governor of Virginia.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yes sir. I’m running for a more inclusive and innovative Virginia. I want to reform the tax and regulatory system. I want to reform the criminal justice system, and make things more fair for everybody here in Virginia."

"That’s cool, man.”

Cliff Hyra will be on the ballot statewide as a candidate for governor. But you may not have heard of him. The patent attorney from Northern Virginia is running as a Libertarian, a party he describes as conservative on fiscal issues and liberal on social issues. If elected governor he says he would use the power of the office to ramp down the War on Drugs.

“That’s something I could do immediately as soon as I came into office I could order law enforcement to deprioritize marijuana use. I don’t want to see anybody who’s arrested only for marijuna use. It’s certainly a very poor use of scare resources.”

He would also take aim at the criminal justice system.

“The sentences that are handed down are very often disproportionate. If you look at surveys showing the levels of use between African American and other communities and then the levels of arrests are very disproportionate.”

The last Libertarian candidate to run for governor was Robert Sarvis, who ran against Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli. He did better than any other third party candidate in the last 40 years. But that still wasn’t enough to crack 10%.

Sarvis was out campaigning with Hyra. “The problem is that we don’t actually have a level playing field. We have to spend a lot of effort just to get on the ballot. Once we’re on the ballot, there’s an effort to keep us out of the debates.”

Sarvis says he should have been included in the debates.  “I was polling at 10%. I got 145,000 votes and I still wasn’t allowed in the debates, and I think that’s a tragedy.”

"If this race is as close as I think it could be, then the Libertarian candidate could play the spoiler and in that case he would hurt Ed Gillespie."

So far, Hyra has yet to receive an invitation to any of the debates this year. The Virginia Bar Association will be conducting the first debate this weekend, and they won’t be including Hyra because he doesn’t have the necessary polling numbers and he hasn’t raised enough money.

But Christopher Newport University’s Quentin Kidd says that doesn’t mean he won’t have an influence over the outcome of the election.

"Remember the last time Ed Gillespie came within 17,000 votes of beating Mark Warner. If this is a 17,000 vote race then you could be in a situation where the Libertarian candidate does in fact play the spoiler.

If this race is as close as I think it could be, then the Libertarian candidate could play the spoiler and in that case he would hurt Ed Gillespie.”

On some issues, Hyra and Gillespie aren’t all that far apart. Take the issue of expanding Medicaid.

“Expansion is forever. It’s almost a poison pill because once you get that expansion it’s really hard to roll it back."

And then there's abortion.

“In general, on abortion issues I would defer to the legislature. So the exception to that would be if there’s something that I feel is unconstitutional.”

But then there’s the controversial issues of the pipelines.

“Well I’m opposed to the pipelines, and I’m opposed to them mainly for property rights reasons. You have the federal government, and they’re taking private property and it’s for the benefit of a private company, Dominion Power.”

Back on the campaign trail in Clarendon, Hyra is making an elevator pitch at the top of an escalator.

“I think it’s very unfortunate some of the rhetoric that we’ve seen recently that’s been very discouraging to people who want to visit here from overseas. But I think they are a wonderful asset, and I hope that we can reverse the trend in that respect."

“That’s cool, man.”

“OK, very nice meeting you.”

“I really hope you make it.”

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association