Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Cliff Hyra visits Charlottesville

Hyra hopes to attract undecided voters, disaffected Democrats and Republicans

ns-CliffHyra-CourtesyWikiMedia

Hyra hopes to gain support from undecided voters or voters turned off by their parties.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Cliff Hyra, the Libertarian candidate in this year’s closely-watched race for Virginia governor, visited Charlottesville Thursday to meet with interested voters. With less than three weeks until Election Day, Hyra says he is trying to attract voters with his free-market, small government message.

Most polls show Hyra, a 35-year old intellectual property attorney and father of four, polling at just a few percentage points. According to a recent poll from Quinnipiac University and a recent poll from Monmouth University, the gubernatorial election is a close contest between Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie. Hyra, the only third-party candidate on the ballot, sits at two points and three points, respectively.

“Of course, I want to win and I am running, doing the best I can to win, but it’s not a surprise to me that it doesn’t look like I’m going to win,” Hyra said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily. “It doesn’t change my attitude at all because I came into the campaign with an expectation that if I was able to hit the 10 percent threshold, to make the Libertarian party officially a major party and get our candidates more easily in a lot of the races that currently are uncontested — that would be a huge success.”

Virginia is one of two states — the other being New Jersey — with a gubernatorial election this year, and the swing state has been put on the national spotlight as President Donald Trump positions himself and the Republican Party for re-election. Although the polls show Hyra is unlikely to win, his campaign could have an impact on the election results.

“I have one goal, and that is to help as many people as possible, as many Virginians as possible, however I can do that,” Hyra said. “I think I could do the most good if I was elected governor, but I think I can help just by raising some of these issues.”

Hyra has not been invited to appear in any of the candidate debates and has spent significantly less money to get his message out. Following the socially liberal and fiscally conservative philosophy of the Libertarian Party, his campaign platform is heavy on protecting personal freedoms and limiting government power. It includes calling for the legalization of marijuana, severe curtailment of the state’s numerous food and beverage laws and protecting individual property rights.

“I’m not really so much about the right-left axis,” Hyra said. “I’m more about individual freedom across the board, both in private life and in the economic sphere.”

He also highlighted his stance on criminal justice reform, emphasizing that millions of taxpayer dollars are spent on incarcerating Virginians for drug charges, most of which are for the possession of marijuana. He said he would treat substance abuse as “a public health issue rather than a criminal justice issue.”

“We’re really behind the times in a lot of ways and if we were just a little more innovative, a little more willing to take some of the best practices that have already been proven to work in other states and bring them here and we could enjoy the same benefits,” Hyra said.

With the fate of Confederate statues and monuments a topic of debate across the state of Virginia, Hyra stated that their placement should be determined on a local level, rather than a state level. 

“Personally, I’m not a fan of the statues,” Hyra said. “I don’t think that the government should be paying to maintain and secure statues for honoring divisive figures that people don’t like, especially Confederate figures and everything that they stand for.”

Hyra is also in favor of more liberal immigration policies.

“Immigration is so important for Virginia, certainly to our economy, they contribute so much to our culture, as well as to the business community,” he said. “Personally a lot of my clients are immigrants who came here for the American dream, started their own business, they now employ native Virginians and so it’s very important not to do anything that would discourage immigrants to settle here.”

Hyra hopes to gain support from undecided voters or voters turned off by their parties and keep the momentum that Libertarian Robert Sarvis started in the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial election when he won 7 percent of the vote, including a high number of independent voters. 

“We would hate for any voter to go into the voting booth and see somebody on the ballot and not know who they are and not know what their platform is,” Hyra said. “That’s our big challenge and that’s what our focus is on, meeting as many people as possible and doing everything we can … Within our constraints to make sure that people know who I am.”

The gubernatorial election will take place Nov. 7.

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