Polite smiles. Handshakes. Giggles. Silence.
Sarvis sat alongside stand-ins for his opponents, Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli II, who apparently had more important places to be than a gathering of teenagers, many of them not old enough to vote.
Libertarian candidates have never made much of a dent in Virginia politics. But Sarvis, a software developer and lawyer who also has master’s degrees in math and economics, climbed as high as 10 percent in recent polls, causing no small amount of whiplash in Virginia political circles.
Because Sarvis is a virtual unknown, his rise is largely viewed as a reflection of voters’ disgust with McAuliffe and Cuccinelli, who have trashed each other in a flood of negative advertising.
A bit more than a third of Virginians viewed McAuliffe unfavorably in a recent Washington Post-Abt SRBI poll after a months-long portrayal by Republicans as an untrustworthy huckster who is unqualified to run the state.
Nearly half of those polled — 47 percent — had a negative impression of Cuccinelli (R), the state’s attorney general, whom McAuliffe (D) has spent millions branding as an anti-women, anti-gay, tea party extremist.
Sarvis, 37, has no paid staff and no headquarters, and he hosts meetings at a Tropical Smoothie cafe near his Annandale townhouse. He has logged 13,000 miles campaigning in his family’s Dodge Caravan (with two safety seats in the back for his kids).
He’s not complaining about being a choice of last resort.
“Their awfulness creates all the opportunities,” he said of his opponents.
The electorate appears to be noticing.
Jean Case, the wife of AOL founder Steve Case who has donated large sums to Republicans and Democrats over the years, sent $2,000 to Sarvis’s campaign last week, the Libertarian’s (volunteer) spokesman and strategist, J.V. LaBeaume said.
While his opponents have raised millions, Sarvis had $19,000 in his account, according to his August campaign finance report. His recent expenditures included $4,250 to broadcast a single, 30-second TV ad in which he says, “I joined this race to give you a better choice.”
Emmett Graybill, 81, a retired political science professor who participated in The Post’s poll, struggled to recall Sarvis’s name — “Who’s that Libertarian guy?” he asked during an interview — then said the candidate’s best attribute is that he’s “not Cuccinelli, and he’s not McAuliffe.”
“Cuccinelli is honest, but his views are obnoxious, and the Democrat is terrible — there are too many shenanigans,” said Graybill, a Richmond resident. “The candidates are absolute disgraces to American politics.”
Carol Garvis, 72, a Lexington resident who also responded to poll, said her discomfort with the major-party candidates might propel her to vote for Sarvis even though she knows little about him.