Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Adrian Wyllie is scheduled to make a campaign stop in South Florida on Sunday with a Calle Ocho visit to La Carreta restaurant in Miami.
At this late stage of Florida’s down-to-the-wire gubernatorial race, with new polls out daily, it’s hard to predict the Wyllie’s effect on the outcome.
A CNN/ORC International poll conducted Oct. 9 to Oct. 13, for example, showed Republican Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist, now a Democrat, in a dead heat — each with support from 44 percent of likely voters. Wyllie had 9 percent, consistent with other recent polls.
“The question on everybody’s mind is, ‘Who’s he helping and who’s he hurting?’ “ said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “We don’t know to any real degree.”
“It’s really a toss-up, in that he seems to be drawing equally from both of the major-party candidates,” said University of Central Florida political science professor Aubrey Jewett. “I will say that historically, Libertarian candidates have tended to draw more from Republican voters than Democratic voters.”
And despite a lack of money — especially given that he’s running in the most costly race in state history — Wyllie has used his public speaking and social-media skills to stay in the spotlight. The owner of an IT consulting firm, Wyllie co-founded the 1787 Radio Network, which calls itself “Florida’s Voice of Liberty” and has championed his candidacy.
Wyllie, 44, of Palm Harbor, offers plans that, if enacted, would have far-reaching effects. He wants to cut the state budget by 30 percent, in part by rooting out corruption and cronyism, in part by eliminating property taxes on homesteads and environmental regulations. He opposes the Common Core education standards on the grounds that they give too much student information to government. He has warned against Florida’s growing “totalitarianism” and supports the legalization of marijuana and gay marriage.
Mixing arguments identified with both major parties is part of the Libertarian’s wild-card posture. He said he doesn’t see the race in terms of which candidate he’d damage the most.
“We don’t look at it as taking votes from anyone,” Wyllie said. “The votes belong to the people. They don’t belong to a party. We’re out there earning votes, and if my opponents aren’t out there doing the same, that’s their problem.”
But Wyllie is the first to say that he’s benefited from the fact that Scott and Crist have spent so much money bashing each other. Or that they both have higher negatives in the polls than positives.
Brown and Jewett said Wyllie is polling far better than they’ve known a third-party candidate to do in a race for Florida governor. Jewett said Wyllie could finish with 10 percent or more of the vote, “which would be pretty amazing for a third-party candidate for governor.”
What isn’t clear is whether he has any staying power beyond this election. His campaign manager, Danielle Alexandre, a longtime Libertarian Party activist, believes that he does.
“Our message of economic freedom and individual liberty resonates with the people, and it is upon our candidates to get that message to them,” she wrote in an email. “When you have someone as articulate and well versed on the issues as Adrian … that helps the party get that message to the people.”
But longtime Republican operative Mac Stipanovich, who supports Scott, is skeptical.
“Candidates who are not the nominees of the two major parties are not at all unusual,” Stipanovich said. “And whether any one of them is the harbinger of some future change in party politics — in the way elections are fought and won and lost in the future — is always in the future. So far, Mr. Wyllie’s predecessors have not earned that distinction. And there’s no reason to believe that he will.”
Also, Jewett cautioned that voters who tell pollsters they back a third-party candidate often end up voting for a major-party candidate if they feel the outcome of the race is in doubt.
Wyllie went to federal court to try to get included in a televised debate this week with Scott and Crist. A federal judge Tuesday rejected that effort, but Wyllie’s candidacy has caught the attention of the news media and people who closely follow politics.
“As well as he’s doing in the polls, he should be included in every debate,” said former state Sen. Paula Dockery, a Lakeland Republican who now writes a political column. “You’ve shown that people are interested.” She said Wyllie has “staying power” and used social media well.
Wyllie said he and his campaign haven’t changed their approach.
“We’re actually doing the same thing that we’ve been doing the whole time,” he said. “It’s just with our inclusion in the polls and the increasing numbers and increased media attention, all of a sudden a lot of folks are starting to notice that they have a third choice.”