Election 2018News

Colorado group backing unaffiliated candidates says it’s recruiting in 8 legislative districts

Author: Ernest Luning - March 2, 2018 - Updated: May 9, 2018

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billThe Colorado Capitol is pictured on a sunny day in this May 2016 file photo. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

The campaign organization that used to be called the Centrist Project says it’s recruiting unaffiliated candidates in eight legislative seats across Colorado — and plans to train potential candidates the same night Republicans and Democrats will be holding precinct caucuses.

Unite Colorado, the state-focused arm of Unite America, is already fielding unaffiliated candidates in four districts. The group plans to spend $1 million in Colorado this year to see if voters who say they’re willing to back credible, independent candidates will elect a few — it’s never happened before — in an effort force both parties to bridge the partisan divide at the state Capitol.

“While the partisan extremists are meeting in caucuses, we’ll be training independent candidates on how to run outside of the broken two-party system,” said Andrew Short, the group’s political director, in a statement. “The parties put their own political interests first; we’re looking for candidates who are willing to put the people first.”

The group is organizing an online training session at 7 p.m. Tuesday for unaffiliated Coloradans considering a run for the Legislature. Those interested can register here. Potential candidates have to have been registered as unaffiliated since the beginning of the year in order to run that way for the Legislature in November.

A spokesman for the group said Thursday the group believes it can boost unaffiliated candidates to wins in three Senate seats and five House seats, including two that won’t have incumbents on the ballot this year:

• Senate District 11 in El Paso County, where Democratic Mike Merrifield isn’t seeking another term;

• Senate District 13 in Weld County, where Republican John Cooke is running for reelection;

• Senate District 15 in Larimer County, where Republican Kevin Lundberg isn’t seeking another term;

• House District 17 in El Paso County, where Democrat Tony Exum is running for reelection;

• House District 25 in Jefferson County, where Republican Tim Leonard is running for reelection;

• House District 37 in Arapahoe County, where Republican Cole Wist is running for reelection;

• House District 47 in Pueblo and surrounding counties, where Republican Judy Reyher, who was appointed to the seat late last year, is running for a full term;

• House District 63 in Weld County, where Republican Lori Saine is running for reelection.

“Given record dissatisfaction with both parties, we feel independents can be competitive across the state,” Nick Troiano, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. He added that it’s especially true in the targeted districts.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. Since 2009, he has been the senior political reporter and occasional editor for The Colorado Statesman.