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Down Big in Polls, Libertarian Joe Walton Forges On

Joe Walton

When a poll came out last month showing Joe Walton capturing two percent of likely voters, the Libertarian Party candidate was grateful. “Thank you, @MonmouthPoll, for including us in the poll!” he Tweeted. “We expect that number to rise!”

Walton is used to being ignored. He didn’t get an invite to what is likely the only debate in 7th Congressional District.

And unlike Republican Congressman Dave Brat or his Democratic challenger, Abigail Spanberger, Walton doesn’t regularly make headlines or produce splashy TV ads.

But Walton says he’s a “sensible centrist” catering to the forgotten political middle. “I would hope that folks would look at my candidacy as an alternative, or as a way to say, we need more perspectives than just the two extremes,” he said an interview last week.

Walton accuses his opponents of moderating more extreme positions they’d espoused in primaries. He believes Libertarians are more ideologically in tune with most Americans. “The Libertarian platform has a lot of aspects of the political left and political right,” he said. “It is sort of anti-large government and anti-large corporations.”

Walton is a Richmond native with a background in the technology industry. He served as chair of the Powhatan County Board of Supervisors until 2011, when he lost an election. He’s now a Phd student studying cryptocurrency and public policy at VCU.

Walton’s campaign had $900 in cash at the end of September---a fraction of the hundreds of thousands his rivals reported in their most recent disclosure forms.

But University of Mary Washington politics professor Stephen Farnsworth says that’s not Watlon’s biggest obstacle. “Money is not the problem haunting Libertarians, the first-past-the-post system is,” Farsnworth wrote in an email.

Farsnworth says a run-off system would allow voters to choose a third party candidate without the risk of playing spoiler for their main party pick. “Libertarians may be able to take advantage of high levels of frustration with the major parties, but a very good election year for a Libertarian involves mid-to-high single digits,” he said.

Walton believes non-partisan redistricting would help his cause, and he’s not holding his breath on victory in November. “It might take a few more cycles for electoral success,” he said.