Hot Sheet

9News profiles centrists hoping to put five candidates in the legislature, but can they?

Author: Joey Bunch - June 17, 2017 - Updated: June 17, 2017

Centrist Project

Brandon Rittiman and Anna Staver had a fascinating piece on 9News Friday night about a plan being hatched by centrist-minded politicians fed up with partisan politics in the Colorado legislature.

The Centrist Project is looking for five good candidates to run for the statehouse under the Centrist banner. If they can do that — and saying it and doing are two very different things in politics — they  tell 9News that they can deny both parties a majority.

Hmmmm, that math equation is built on a lot of if’s.

Right now, the Democrats have a 37-28 majority in the House. Even if all five candidates won there, and even if they knocked off five Democrats, that would still leave Democrats with a 32-28-5 majority. The five would still need to caucus with one of the parties to have much hope of getting anything passed. The Centrists would have to stick together and vote with the Republicans to force the Democratic majority to negotiate, but that’s sounding messy and hard. For one, Democrats could use their control of committees to kill any bill they didn’t like if it’s in jeopardy of a 33-32 outcome on the floor. Plus, the centrists would have to run the table in the general election, if they have only five candidates.

And wouldn’t the math mean five centrist candidates are House Republicans for hire when their votes are needed to force Democrats to the bargaining table, if they inexplicably weren’t able to kill a bill in committee?

Details. Viva la revolución.

The Senate split is 18-17 in the Republican’s favors. There’s where the favorable math is, but it’s is much taller task to get elected to the Senate. And the centrists aren’t saying which races they’re targeting.

“”If there is a place that has a need and an opportunity for independents to help bridge that divide, we think it’s right here in Colorado,” Nick Troiano, the Centrist Project’s executive director, told 9News.

Troiano lives in Denver now, but two years ago he ran for U.S. House in Pennsylvania. He got 22,734 votes as an independent candidate. Republican incumbent got 112,851.

9News cited Alaska’s House election last fall, when Republicans lost the majority for the first time since 1994. The Centrist project backed on independent, and another was unaffiliated House member was an incumbent. I’m not sure that tracks to the Colorado plan. In Alaska, a bipartisan coalition that included 17 Democrats, two independents and three moderate Republicans formed a caucus controlling 22 of the 40 seats.

That’s different than bringing in five freshed-faced outsiders with little or no experience to run in give yet-to-be named districts. The political way legislative districts are drawn in Colorado, they’re nearly always safe for incumbents, who enjoy the benefits of fund-raising apparatus and an organized ground game courtesy of their parties.

Moreover, as Rittiman notes, an unaffiliated candidate has never won a seat in the Colorado legislature.

Moreover, again, in Alaska the Senate remains staunchly Republican, so that’s encouraging gridlock, not fixing it.

The Colorado House tends to be particularly liberal as much so as the Senate is particularly conservative. That’s why they couldn’t come close to reasonably addressing the state’s $20 billion in transportation needs over the next two decades. Republicans won’t raise taxes, and Democrats won’t raid social safety nets or schools to fund roads. That’s partisan gridlock for you.

While the Centrist Project has some Colorado staff, it’s a national movement to shake up state legislatures and pull the officeholders away from their base and back to the middle by forcing negotiations.

The ever-quotable Ian Silverii, the executive director of the liberal advocacy group ProgressNow Colorado, didn’t think much of the effort.

“These out-of-state folks seem to have a solution in search of a problem,” he told Rittiman.

The middle is a lonely island.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.


  • Donald E. L. Johnson

    June 17, 2017 at 6:10 pm

    I don’t see a future for the Centrist party in Colorado. What is “centrist”?

    Big Government Centrist or Small Government Centrist or undecided Centrist?

    Both Colorado major parties are controlled by extremists. Small Government, pro-voter Democrats and Republicans need to take back their parties.

    The problem is that extremists are more passionate and work harder to win elections than most of us Small Government folks who’ve been driven out of our parties and sit on the sidelines.

    Term limits are a huge problem in Colorado. We have amateur politicians in the General Assembly who are no match for career Big Government bureaucrats. The bureaucrats co-opt the amateurs like school superintendents co-opt term limited school board members.

    So Colorado is run for the bureaucrats and the General Assembly leaders and their personal agendas of the day, not for the people.

    Colorado continues to be Californicated and soon will be broke like California and Illinois, where most of us have come from.

  • You’re pretending that this is a one-election campaign. It took decades for the progressive and conservative movements to take over the two major parties, and for things to devolve to how low we are now.

    It’ll take at least years for these efforts to bear fruit. Judging them based on their success over just one election cycle just plain makes no sense – this is merely step one.

Comments are closed.