Now that Libertarian Robert Sarvis has qualified to be on the ballot in the U.S. Senate race across Virginia, some are wondering if he might play a decisive role in the election.
If Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli was able to secure about 40 percent of the votes that went to Sarvis last year's race for governor, he would have won the election. Now Sarvis is running for Senate in a race that features Democrat Mark Warner and Republican Ed Gillespie — and Sarvis' presence could impact Gillespie.
"Gillespie basically has to fight a two-front war now," says University of Mary Washington professor Stephen Farnsworth, who says the Libertarian will pose a challenge to the Republican.
"People who might support Sarvis and the people who might support Warner, those two constituencies are the key challenges that Gillespie faces. It's bad news for Gillespie that Sarvis qualified for the ballot," he explains.
Christopher Newport University professor Quentin Kidd says Sarvis will be a bigger threat than the usual third-party challenger. "Sarvis has a resource that most third-party candidates don't have, and that is he has a contact list of people who supported him just last year," he says.
Sarvis, who took 6.5 percent of the vote in his 2013 gubernatorial run, is calling for the legalization of marijuana as well as a reducing regulations on businesses. He says he is not a spoiler in the race because neither party is entitled to votes they haven't earned.
"If people are worried about the spoiler effect, then they should support me in calling for changes to our electoral system so that could include things like instant runoff voting. We should also have easier ballot access, and we should have term limits and all these electoral reforms," he says.
Those are reforms he says he's willing to fight for — on the campaign trail and in court. Last week, Sarvis filed a lawsuit challenging state laws he says give Democrats and Republicans an unfair advantage in elections.