Wyllie a Libertarian Alternative in Governor's Race
Beer containers aren't usually a topic in Florida gubernatorial races, but for Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie, the state's ban on small brewers filling half-gallon jugs illustrates how regulations reward campaign contributors and stifle competitors.
Sipping a pint of Count Shakula chocolate oatmeal stout, Wyllie chatted with a Green Room Brewing customer about how the Republican-led Legislature blocked the legalization of half-gallon growlers — or refillable beer jugs — when quart and gallon growlers can be filled and sold in limitless amounts at Florida breweries. Behind the defeat was one of the state's Budweiser distributors, who is a longtime supporter of Senate President Don Gaetz and could lose business if craft brewers gain customers.
"Tallahassee shouldn't be setting up road blocks for small businesses, they should be clearing them out of the way," said Wyllie, who visited the Jacksonville Beach pub during a month-long tour of Florida craft breweries to promote his campaign.
Wyllie, 44, of Palm Harbor, is a longshot, but he is gaining support as voters are turned off by their choices in what's become one of the most negative campaigns waged in Florida. Republican Gov. Rick Scott still struggles with his approval rating and polls show many voters also don't trust Republican-turned-Democrat former Gov. Charlie Crist.
Recent polls show Wyllie getting about 5 percent of the vote, which would be a Florida record for a statewide Libertarian candidate. Wyllie is the first Libertarian to run for governor in Florida, but the party's presidential and Senate candidates have never topped a half-percent. Wyllie has raised about $80,000, a fraction of the $24 million Crist has raised and the $45 million Scott has received.
"Voters are so frustrated by both parties that I wouldn't be surprised if the third-party candidate did better than they usually do," said Matthew Corrigan, a University of North Florida political science professor. "If Wyllie gets 5 to 10 percent, that could have a major impact on our governor's race depending on which way voters go."
As a Libertarian, Wyllie believes government should stay out of most personal and business affairs as long as no one is harmed. He wants to cut state spending, taxes and regulations but he also supports gay marriage, the legalization of marijuana and abortion rights. It's a philosophy that appeals to some Democrats and some Republicans.
Wyllie, who owns a small information technology consulting firm, believes the Legislature's treatment of craft brewers shows what's wrong with government. Instead of helping a rapidly growing industry, Republicans agreed to lift the ban on half-gallon growlers but only if the small brewers agreed to additional regulations that would have restricted their growth. The bill died.
"Some of these brewers would actually have to sell their beer to a distributor and buy it back at an increased cost before they could sell it in their own establishment. That's ridiculous," Wyllie said.
Further on down the bar at Green Room, Wyllie approached Joseph Adazzio, a 42-year-old Republican from Volusia County who was visiting Jacksonville for the day.
"What issues are important to you? Pick my brain," Wyllie said. As the two talked, Wyllie turned to a campaign aide and exclaimed, "Sounds like a Libertarian!"
Afterward, Adazzio said he knew nothing about Wyllie before the encounter, but said he would consider voting for him.
"He seemed to listen. He seemed to agree," said Adazzio, who hadn't been won over by Crist or Scott. "Some people say voting for a third option is a wasted vote; I don't think it is."