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Centrist Project: Giving Independent Candidates a Fighting Chance in Colorado

Colorado is home to over 1.3 million independents, yet there is not a single independent legislator in either the State House or State Senate. Independents are the largest and fastest growing group of voters but they remain voiceless in the state legislature. This is, in part, due to the anti-competitive hurdles created by the two-party system.

Independent candidates must confront a political duopoly that has given itself every advantage – from ballot access rules to campaign finance regulations. For example, an independent candidate for State Senate can only raise up to $400 per donor, but a major party candidate can raise $25,000 from the Democratic or Republican parties.

In addition, behind the scenes, a “political industrial complex” has been built and funded by both parties to provide their candidates with the necessary infrastructure to run organized and effective campaigns – such as access to data, talent, and technology. Virtually all of these campaign operatives and vendors refuse to work for an independent candidate.

An independent candidate for State Senate can only raise up to $400 per donor, but a major party candidate can raise $25,000 from the Democratic or Republican parties.

Finally, when independent candidates do run, they face a significant challenge in getting any media attention because they are not seen as “viable” – because of all the aforementioned factors. It’s a chicken-and-egg problem for independent candidates – few can start from scratch and without any outside help.

The Centrist Project is working to overcome barriers faced by independent candidates by creating the necessary infrastructure and supporter base in order to level the playing field – without forming a traditional third party.

They believe the construction of a durable “Centrist” independent brand will attract strong, principled candidates who would not otherwise run. Unaffiliated from a strict party platform and unbeholden to special interests and the political extremes, these candidates could then focus on finding common ground to solve important problems.

The ultimate objective of the Centrist Project is to elect a sufficient number of independent candidates to deny both parties an outright majority and use this leverage as a swing coalition to force both sides back to the center, where they can get things done.

In Colorado, for example, the State Senate consists of 18 Republicans and 17 Democrats, so just one or two independents could serve as that swing coalition.

And since Colorado has term limits, which creates many open seats each cycle, and a plurality of voters are unaffiliated, the atmosphere in the state is ripe for independent candidates to run meaningful campaigns.

The Centrist Project is a founding partner of the coalition of reform organizations behind “Unrig the System,” an event aimed at reforming Colorado politics. Find out more by watching the video below or by visiting unrig.it.

Photo Credit: AntonSokolov / Shutterstock.com