"We are a new movement that seeks to bridge the growing partisan divide, specifically by electing common-sense independent candidates to office," says Unite Colorado executive director Nick Troiano, who will host a Denver Press Club event at 11:30 a.m. today, January 9, to introduce the local media to Steve Peterson, Maile Foster, Eric Montoya and Jay Geyer, the organization's first four 2018 hopefuls.
"We believe now is the time," Troiano adds, "because a plurality of Colorado voters are independent, but no candidates running as independents have been elected to the current legislature. And we aim to change that."
Senator Cheri Jahn has already taken a step in this direction. Last month, she left the Democratic Party and announced that she would serve out the remainder of her term as an unaffiliated member because, as she wrote on her Facebook page, "this system is terribly broken." But Unite Colorado wants to turn this frustration into a political strategy.
"The goal — and this may take more than one election cycle — is to elect a significant-enough number of independents to the legislature that it will change the balance of power," Troiano notes. "It's the fulcrum strategy: A coalition of independents can be the swing vote and use their leverage to forge common-ground solutions."
As a result, he goes on, "neither party will be able to ram through their agenda. The only legislation that will be able to pass is legislation that can garner support from the other party or independents. And we think that will force the kind of collaboration that seems to have disappeared in recent years."
Troiano stresses that "there is no litmus test" for Unite Colorado candidates, "and in fact, we believe those kinds of tests are part of the problem in both political parties. The reality is, most people might agree with the Democrats on some things and the Republicans on others — and being independent is having the ability to think for yourself and champion the best ideas, wherever they come from."
As a result, Unite Colorado has published what it calls a "Declaration of Independents" that Troiano says is "meant to define what it means to be the type of political independent we'd support...to put people before political parties or special interests and having a desire to find common ground to actually solve problems, as well as a belief in good governance, which means transparency and accountability in the governing process."
Meanwhile, Troiano points out, the guiding principles for the candidates focus on "opportunity, the idea that every Coloradan should realize their full potential; equality, because we believe everyone should be equal under the law; stewardship; and a commitment to both environmental and fiscal responsibility, so that we don't live beyond our means at the next generation's expense."
In Troiano's view, "these ideas pull a little from each side. So our candidates might not agree on every specific policy, but they do have shared principles."
On what do they differ? Troiano admits that he has no idea.
"I don't know where there might be policy divergence," he concedes, "because although we've spent a lot of time recruiting them, we weren't applying tests on policy. We were seeing if they had strong character and integrity, if they aligned on a common approach to governance, and if they have a credible path for victory."
This last comment is key for Unite Colorado, which is financed by individual donations coordinated through Unite America, a spin-off from the national CentristProject.org. "This isn't about making noise," he stresses. "This is about winning elections. And for the first time, Unite Colorado is building what has been missing: infrastructure for independent candidates to run credible campaigns, including a grassroots community, a donor network and talented campaign staff. Independents who ran in the past didn't have that. Now they do."