The campaign of Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis issued the following statement Thursday night, reacting to the decision excluding him from the gubernatorial debate that will take place at Virginia Tech on October 24th.
"We all know what happened here. As the goalposts kept changing over the past couple weeks, it became clear that the decision would be made on the basis of measures that have the patina of objectivity, but in fact are designed to exclude.
A decision made two weeks in advance of the debate—an eternity this close to Election Day—based on an average of polls released over a three-week window effectively anchors us to the lower numbers of older polls, even though our numbers continue to rise in every poll. I am disappointed, but not surprised.
Our political system has been distorted for the benefit of the two incumbent parties and no longer serves the voters of Virginia. That's why this campaign is such a breath of fresh air for so many people and why I remain undeterred.
To the voters of Virginia, I say this: I won't let anyone take away your right to hear from all the candidates. I will carry on the campaign and show you why I am - and my vision for a Virginia that’s both “Open-minded and Open for Business” is - the best choice for Governor of Virginia."
The final debate of the Virginia Governor's race will not include Libertarian Candidate Robert Sarvis.
Thursday was the deadline for a decision, and the candidate's showing in recent polls came in just under the level he needed to receive an invitation.
WDBJ7 and Virginia Tech are co-hosting the October 24th debate in Blacksburg. Thursday afternoon the television station announced the event will include the two major party candidates, Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe.
The threshold for participation of the third-party candidate was 10 percent in the major independent polls of the last three weeks. The agreement with the Cuccinelli and McAuliffe campaigns said the decision would rely heavily on an average of major polls tracked by the website www.realclearpolitics.com.
Though Sarvis had polled above 10 percent in some recent surveys, the average came in at 9 percent on Thursday’s deadline.
We spoke with Sarvis earlier this week, during a visit to the Roanoke Valley.
“Whenever I meet voters throughout Virginia they're just elated that they have a third choice,” Sarvis told us during the interview, “and so it would be a real tragedy for voters not to be able to see me in front of the audience with the other two candidates.”
He said the debate with Cuccinelli and McAuliffe was one of the few opportunities he would have for an extended discussion in front of a large audience, showing the clear contrasts between the candidates.
We also asked for his reaction if the invitation didn't come.
“Well, disappointment,” Sarvis said, “but we'll carry on. I really don't let that get me down. I'm travelling around the state regardless and going to as many meet-and-greets and try to get myself in front of as many voters as possible.”
In a statement Thursday afternoon, WDBJ7 said the decision comes two weeks before the debate to give the candidates and debate organizers adequate time to prepare for the October 24th event.
So even if Sarvis were to climb in the polls over the next two weeks, he will not be invited to participate in the debate.
Here is the news release about WDBJ7's decision:
WDBJ7 and Virginia Tech are co-hosting a debate between the two major party candidates for governor on Thursday, October 24 at 7:00 p.m. As part of the negotiations regarding guidelines for the debate, the two campaigns agreed to language setting an average polling threshold that opened the door for the third party candidate to participate in the debate.
The language both campaigns agreed to is as follows:
The third party candidate will be invited to participate in the debate if he is polling at 10% or above in major statewide independent polls released within the period three weeks prior to October 10. The decision concerning eligibility will be made by WDBJ7 in consultation with political analysts Harry Wilson from Roanoke College and Bob Denton from Virginia Tech and will rely heavily on the averages of major polls as listed on www.realclearpolitics.com.
October 10 was agreed upon as a deadline for the third party candidate to reach the threshold to give candidates two weeks ahead of the debate to prepare and the hosting organizations time to set the format and staging for the event.
As of this date, the third party candidate is polling at 9.0% based on the averages on realclearpolitics.com and would, therefore, not meet the guidelines agreed upon by the campaigns.