Is this the time for the rise of independents? 13 independent candidates who don’t fit in the Republican Party with Donald Trump at the helm are now joining with a few Democrats who are planning runs for governor and Senate in 2018. They have a plan to create shared infrastructure and funding for their campaigns around the country. They hope to rise above the typical unsuccessful critique of how bad just a two party system is.
They believe that with an extremely unpopular Republican president in the White House and a Democratic Party in unprecedented chaos, this may be their moment. These new independents, put together by the Centrist Project which was founded by Charles Wheelan of Dartmouth, will meet at the Union League in downtown Philadelphia. They will no doubt revel in the symbolism there for declaring independence.
They will get briefings on running a campaign, a rundown on potential staff and a list of potential donors. One of Emmanuel Macron’s party will share how a party that didn’t exist a year ago in France won the presidency and now a majority in the National Assembly.
They are following the model of Alaska Gov. Bill Walker. He was a lifelong Republican who quit the party two months before the 2014 election, picked a Democrat as his lieutenant governor, and won the election against a Republican incumbent. Walker describes the advantages of being an independent, “If a candidate comes up and says, ‘I’m a Republican, or ‘I’m a Democrat,’ people know within probably 70 percent of where they stand. With an independent, it’s like, ‘OK, tell me about yourself.’”
Some of the “names” that will be at the Centrist Project gathering in Philadelphia are Maine’s state treasurer Terry Hayes, who has declared that she is running for Governor. Greg Orman, who fell just short in an independent bid against Kansas Senator Pat Roberts in 2014, is expected to be there and run for governor next year. And Evan McMullin is expected to follow his independent run for president last year with a Senate run in Utah against Orrin Hatch.
Joel Searby, a senior strategist for the Centrist Project, recruited a number of the new candidates. They include two former Navy SEALs and three self-funders who have talked about spending anywhere from 1 to 5 million of their own money on their campaigns.
“They’re committed to running as independents for the reasons of disrupting and changing the political system, not because they’re on the fringe,” Searby says. “When they start to see that there is not only a viable plan—a business plan, a fundraising plan, but also a serious network of people—that’s when you can see the light bulbs go off.”
Do you think this is the time for a center of the road party to emerge?