-- by David Swink, FCTA, 11/08/2014
In two consecutive years now, Robert Sarvis' third-party candidacy plus GOP stinginess have caused both Ken Cuccinelli and Ed Gillespie to narrowly lose to Terry McAuliffe and Mark Warner respectively. I thus award to both Robert Sarvis and the GOP the social networking title of "Best Friends Forever" to Virginia Democrats. Both seem determined to in effect promote Democratic candidates.
The GOP hates Conservatives
It is no secret that the Republican Establishment hates Conservative or Tea Party candidates, and actively promotes those that Conservatives label as "Republican In Name Only" (RINOs). For example, in 2009 the RNC donated $9 million to Governor Bob McDonnell's 2009 race against a weak opponent; it gave only about a third of that in 2013 to the conservative Ken Cuccinelli, who lost very narrowly (by 2.5%) to the well-funded Terry McAuliffe.
In the just-decided close Virginia U.S. Senate race, GOP candidate Ed Gillespie complained of tepid GOP campaign funding support, and was outspent by the Democratic Mark Warner campaign by about 2-1. Warner ended up with 49% of the vote to Gillespie's 48%.
Many Conservatives think the Republican Establishment would rather lose an election than help a Conservative win public office. And the GOP in Virginia has been comatose for years. Perhaps the only way to fix this problem is for Conservatives to deny funding to the GOP, and instead contribute to those organizations that promote the Conservative cause. It's true that money talks! The GOP may eventually get the message and begin to resuscitate itself.
Runoff Elections in Virginia?
Robert Sarvis is another issue. Whether by Death Wish or as a paid Democratic operative, the results are unassailable. Unlike in parliamentary systems, third party candidates don't play well in our two-party system of government -- often acting as spoilers and flipping the general election to the consternation of those same voters silly enough to effectively promote their last choice to public office.
In 2013, Libertarian Robert Sarvis won 6.6% of the vote in Virginia's gubernatorial election in a 3-way race, with Democrat Terry McAuliffe taking 48.0% and Republican Ken Cuccinelli taking 45.5%.
In 2014, the same Libertarian Robert Sarvis won 2.43% of the vote in Virginia's U.S. Senate election in a 3-way race, with Democrat Mark Warner taking 49.12% and Republican Ed Gillespie taking 48.36%. (Gillespie was ahead of Warner until late returns from liberal Fairfax County came in.)
Now Libertarians identify closest to Conservatives; Greens and Populists identify closest to Democrats; and "Independents" more than likely lean towards the Democrats. So without Robert Sarvis' third-party entry in both the 2013 and 2014 races (perhaps via a subsequent runoff election), it is likely that Ken Cuccinelli would be Virginia's governor and Ed Gillespie would be Virginia's U.S. Senator-elect.
Georgia and Louisiana have adopted a run-off system to prevent such events from occurring in their general elections, in the event that neither candidate collects a majority of votes. In Georgia, the recent Perdue clear majority (53%) did not make a runoff necessary; in Louisiana though, Democrat Landrieu took only 42.1% of the vote against Republicans Cassidy (41%) and Maness (13.8) -- triggering a Dec 6 runoff election.
After two third-party "spoiler" elections within two years, perhaps it's time for Virginia to consider the runoff option in state and national elections. Or perhaps a "second choice" ballot option that could be used to prevent such non-majority events. FCTA will seek sponsors to address this issue in Richmond.