Cliff Hyra: Libertarian reaches out to undecideds in Virginia governor race
Cliff Hyra, the Libertarian candidate for governor, was technically at Tuesday’s Virginia gubernatorial candidate debate.
“It’s very frustrating. Especially because some polling came out recently, and they actually asked the question, do you want to see Cliff Hyra in the debates? And overwhelmingly, the answer was yes. More than two-thirds said yes, only 15 percent said no. That seems to be the most important criteria: do people want see me, want to know what my issues are, my positions are?” Hyra asked, rhetorically, in an interview with Augusta Free Press Wednesday.
Hyra is on the ballot, which one might think would be enough to merit inclusion on the debate stage with the major party candidates, Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie.
But, hey, the two parties in the two-party system cling to the vestiges of their cartel.
“I think most people support the idea of an inclusive debate with everybody who is on the ballot. It is not a trivial feat to be on the ballot. I should be represented in the debate, because people want to know about all the options that they have to choose from. They have an important decision to make,” said Hyra, who is, yes, running a distant third in the polls, registering in the range of 3 to 5 percent in his first run for public office.
Hyra, who has an undergrad degree in aerospace engineering from Virginia Tech and a law degree from George Mason, entered the race in April, and faced a tight deadline for ballot access, needing to collect thousands of signatures on ballot petitions by mid-June.
He jumped in to try to build on the momentum from the Gary Johnson 2016 presidential campaign and the run by Robert Sarvis for governor in Virginia in 2013.
Sarvis received a surprising 6.5 percent of the vote in a three-way race in 2013, in what turned into a narrow victory for Democrat Terry McAuliffe in a tight race with Republican Ken Cuccinelli.
Northam and Gillespie seemed destined for a similar close race, and the polls have roughly 15 percent of the electorate currently undecided.
Hyra sees that segment of the electorate being totally up for grabs.
“Those undecideds tend to be more third-party-type voters, and that’s my base, among the third-party voters and independents,” Hyra said. “I’ve seen in some polls where my support is as high as 16-18 percent among independent and third-party voters. That presents an opportunity for me to potentially increase the vote that I’m polling at so far.”
Hyra describes himself as a “mainstream” Libertarian, socially liberal and fiscally conservative.
“On social issues, I’m very inclusive. I’m pro-immigration, pro-tolerance, anti-discrimination. I’m looking to end any discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in state employment decisions,” said Hyra, conceding that the reputation of Libertarians on fiscal issues tends toward the extreme.
“You hear about some who want to privatize all the roads, who think government should be doing nothing, and I’m not of that persuasion. I’m more of an incrementalist. I believe we need more freedom, more choice, more competition.”
To Hyra, the Libertarian philosophy is the most coherent of the three represented in the race.
“If you look at it as a coherent philosophy, there really is a philosophy there, which is a philosophy of maximizing individual freedom and individual rights, and generally when government does more, it tends to infringe on the rights of the individual, because there’s a government telling you what to do. We believe in less government interference in the private sector and in the private, personal and social sector,” Hyra said.
Many voters hold similar views, leaning toward inclusion on social issues and restraint on fiscal issues. Getting them to understand that neither of the major parties represents them with consistency is a challenge, though.
“There are some people in the Libertarian Party, and they say, oh, yeah, after somebody explained to me what it was, I realized that I was a Libertarian,” Hyra said. “So, we definitely have a lot of work to do, but we have a lot of good volunteers who are working to do exactly that, and get the message out there to make sure everyone is aware who we are and what positions we have, so that people know they have a home.”
Hyra said his first priority, if elected, would be “to make some change to the way drug laws are enforced,” giving low-level drug offenses “the lowest possible priority” in terms of enforcement. He is also critical of the way both parties are handling two proposed natural gas pipelines.
“We’re making things easy for Dominion because Dominion is very powerful in Virginia,” Hyra said. “They employ a huge number of people who give huge campaign contributions to everybody except me. They have a huge incentive to make things easy for Dominion, and they’re really not doing a thorough environmental process. They’re not doing the normal review that’s following the letter of the law here in Virginia. My perspective is that we should be resisting the federal abuse of this eminent-domain power.”
Story by Chris Graham