First Gubernatorial Debate Does Not Include Libertarian Candidate

Jul 24, 2017

The first of three debates for governor is scheduled for this weekend, when Democrat Ralph Northam will square off with Republican Ed Gillespie at the Homestead Resort in Hot Springs. But there’s one candidate who’s not invited to the party.

Libertarian candidate Cliff Hyra spent months collecting signatures of voters to get on the ballot statewide. Last month, the Virginia Department of Elections said he qualified to be on the ballot in every jurisdiction in Virginia. But when voters are confronted with his name they might not know anything about him. That’s because debate organizers of the three debates for governor have not invited him to participate. The first debate is this weekend at the Homestead Resort in Hot Springs during the annual meeting of the Virginia Bar Association. Hyra is not invited. The last Libertarian candidate for governor, Robert Sarvis, says that’s not fair to voters.

Libertarian Candidate, Cliff Hyra (right), was not invited to the debate.
Credit Michael Pope

"It’s basically undermining the ability of the people to hear different ideas and to see everybody who’s going to be on their ballot. When there’s only three people who are going to be on the ballot, there’s no argument for keeping people out.”

The bar association policy for who gets to be part of the debate says candidates must be “significant” to participate, which they define as someone who does well in polling, has raised a significant amount of money and attracted a fair amount of media coverage. The policy doesn’t include any specific numbers for polling or fundraising, leaving it to the judgment of the organizers. So far, Hyra isn't making the cut.

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