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Indie Candidate Gibson Asked to Leave Farmers Market

DALE CITY, Va. — It’s not easy being a third party candidate running for Congress  in Northern Virginia. Just ask Mark Gibson.

This year, in Virginia’s 11th Congressional District, the only way for an independent third-party candidate like Gibson to be listed on the ballot is to have 1,000 signatures on a ballot petition, which then must be submitted to the state’s office of elections. Gibson has about 500 signatures so far and he’s going for a total of 1,500 to ensure he has more  than enough.

On Sunday, he went to the Dale City Farmer’s Market to collect even more signatures. He managed to get five before he was asked to leave.

“I was out collecting signatures, like I had done at other farmers markets like the one at the Burke VRE and in Reston, and there was never a question of where I was supposed to be,” said Gibson.

The Dale City market is held in a commuter lot maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to next Center Plaza, and a Comcast cable office. It’s a popular Sunday morning destination for those looking for locally grown, fresh produce and other goods.

So, it’s a no brainer Gibson would go and shake hands with voters, and ask them to sign his ballot petition.  Gibson didn’t have a table or chairs with him, just a clipboard and a warm greeting, he said.

“It is my understanding the manager on duty spoke with Mr. Gibson and advised him of the necessity to obtain a VDOT permit to solicit campaign signatures at the Commuter Lot.  The manager made note of how ‘nice’ Mr. Gibson was,” said Diane Cabot, with Prince William parks and recreation.

Gibson turned to Twitter to share his experience:

As it turns out, there is a rule that requires any group or organization that wants to set up shop in a VDOT parking lot, to include the farmers market, to first get permission. But the one-man band Gibson doesn’t really have an organization, and he’s not a business.

“My biggest concern is that he was in public place,” said Bill Golden, a Prince William County resident who produces several websites and the community interview show, Nights at the Roundtable. “It seems here we have a restrictive policy that needs explaining by the government.”

Golden met Gibson at a recent taping of “Roundtable,” and suggests more signs be placed at this and all other commuter lots informing people that the proper permits are needed before they can hock their wares or collect signatures.

Also a photographer, Golden says there is also a policy at the Dale City market that prohibits photography. “How can you stop people from taking photos at an outdoor market?” asked Golden.

There is a media policy in place at the market, too, where anyone who wishes of photograph or produce video of the market is asked to call ahead and seek permission first.

Gibson says he’s been to other farmers markets in Fairfax County where he’s been able to collect signatures with no problems, and without obtaining a permit. However, Gibson ran into similar problems at a farmers market in the City of Fairfax where, there too, he was asked for a permit and was asked to leave.

Prince William County has since spoken to Gibson and provided all of the documents he’ll need to fill out to participate in the market, said Cabot.

The permit process hasn’t soured Gibson. He says he’ll complete the permit application with the state, and will seek permission from the county’s parks and recreation department before returning to the Dale City Farmers Market on June 1.

This is the second time Gibson has ran to unseat Democrat Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Fairfax, Prince William. He also faces Republican Suzanne Scholte who is president of a non-profit organization that focuses on human rights issues.

Voters will head to the polls Nov. 4.


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