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Sarvis Notches 3rd Best Libertarian Gubernatorial Mark in US History

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The Virginian has the best showing in a gubernatorial race for a Libertarian in 11 years and easily records the third best showing in party history

robertsarvis10.jpgAlthough he fell short of the highly-prized 10 percent mark - which would have given his party a ballot line in Virginia elections through 2021 - Libertarian gubernatorial nominee Robert Sarvis accomplished something only two of the more than 200 previous candidates from his party have achieved over the last four-plus decades.

Sarvis won 6.5 percent of the vote Tuesday in a competitive contest won by Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe over Republican Ken Cuccinelli.

That marks the third best ever performance by a Libertarian in a gubernatorial election since the founding of the party in the early 1970s.

(Note: Excluded are write-in candidates or candidates appearing on the ballot as an independent who may have received a Libertarian endorsement (e.g. Ed Clark's independent bid in California's 1978 race where he won 5.5 percent of the vote)).

A total of 208 candidates have appeared on the gubernatorial general election ballot as Libertarians over the decades through the 2013 cycle, and only two won a larger percentage of the vote than Sarvis.

The best ever showing by a Libertarian gubernatorial candidate came in Alaska in 1982 with nominee Dick Randolph.

Randolph was a former Republican State Representative in the early 1970s who became the first Libertarian elected to state government in the country, winning two additional terms as a Libertarian in the Alaska House in 1978 and 1980.

In 1982, Randolph was the Libertarian nominee for governor and won 14.9 percent behind Democratic winner Bill Sheffield and Republican Tom Fink.

Wisconsin's Ed Thompson (brother of former four-term GOP governor and then Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson) owns the silver medal with the 10.5 percent he won in 2002 as Republican incumbent Scott McCallum fell to Democrat Jim Doyle by just 3.7 points.

Prior to Sarvis, the only other Libertarian to reach 5 percent in a race for governor was Arizona's Sam Steiger in 1982.

Steiger was a former five-term Republican U.S. Representative and the GOP 1976 U.S. Senate nominee (losing to Dennis DeConcini) and received 5.1 percent of the gubernatorial vote in 1982 in a race won by Democratic incumbent Bruce Babbitt.

Interestingly, Democrats were victorious in each of these four races in which Libertarians captured at least five percent of the vote.

Overall, 20 Libertarians have reached three percent of the vote in races for governor since the 1970s.

Top 20 Libertarian Gubernatorial Performances in U.S. History

Rank
Year
State
Candidate
Percent
1
1982
Alaska
Dick Randolph
14.9
2
2002
Wisconsin
Ed Thompson
10.5
3
2013
Virginia
Robert Sarvis
6.5
4
1982
Arizona
Sam Steiger
5.1
5
1990
New Hampshire
Miriam Luce
4.9
6
1997
New Jersey
Murray Sabrin
4.7
7
2002
Oregon
Tom Cox
4.6
8
1994
New Hampshire
Steven Winter
4.4
9
1992
North Carolina
Scott McLaughlin
4.1
9
1994
South Dakota
Nathan Barton
4.1
11
2010
Georgia
John Monds
4.0
11
2012
Indiana
Rupert Boneham
4.0
11
1992
New Hampshire
Miriam Luce
4.0
14
1998
Wyoming
Dave Dawson
3.9
15
2012
Montana
Ronald Vandevender
3.8
15
2006
Georgia
Garrett Hays
3.8
17
1998
Georgia
Jack Cashin
3.4
18
1984
Montana
Larry Dodge
3.3
18
1990
Texas
Jeff Daiell
3.3
20
1994
Arizona
John Buttrick
3.1
Table compiled by Smart Politics.

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The North Carolina U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis may go down to the wire next Tuesday, but along the way Libertarian nominee Sean Haugh is poised to set a state record for a non-major party candidate. Haugh, who previously won 1.5 percent of the vote in the Tar Heel State's 2002 race, has polled at or above five percent in 10 of the last 12 polls that included his name. The current high water mark for a third party or independent candidate in a North Carolina U.S. Senate election is just 3.3 percent, recorded by Libertarian Robert Emory back in 1992. Only one other candidate has eclipsed the three percent mark - Libertarian Christopher Cole with 3.1 percent in 2008.


Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


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