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In Denver, independents meet to unite the politically homeless

Author: Washington Examiner - August 19, 2018 - Updated: September 10, 2018

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Nick Troiano, executive director of Unite Colorado (Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

By Salena Zito | Washington Examiner

When Nick Troiano quit his job at a nonprofit group in D.C. to run for Congress in 2014, people thought he had lost his mind — not because he was then 24 years old, but because he was running as an independent against a Republican incumbent who had a half a million dollars in the bank and was well liked in his Northeast Pennsylvania district.

Troiano was also facing the headwinds of history and bureaucracy working against him; no independent candidate had ever even made the ballot in his district. He had to gather 2 1/2 times as many signatures as either the Democratic or Republican candidates just to qualify.

He made the ballot, ran, and received a respectable 13 percent share.

“I walked away from that race realizing a couple of things,” he said. “First, people are really open to the idea of voting for an independent. And second, it is really hard to run as an independent because the playing field is not level.”

Those two realizations shaped his personal mission to build an organization to help level the playing field. This organization would connect independent candidates to a volunteer network, donor community, and electoral infrastructure including talented operatives to work on their campaign or voter data, so they can target their messaging.

Four years later, Unite America was formed. The group held its first summit over the weekend in Denver, gathering the best and the brightest in the independent movement in Denver to discuss how to make this movement viable and nimble in a political infrastructure designed for only two parties.

Troiano said that Unite America is building a movement of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, who are trying to bridge the partisan divide and reimagine politics as we know it. They hope to elect independent candidates to office who aren’t beholden to parties or special interests, who can truly represent the people.

“We’ve so far endorsed 24 independent candidates who are running for state legislature, for U.S. senate, and for governor, all across the country, who are offering voters something new, other than politics as usual,” said Troiano.

Unite America Inc. is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that does not make independent expenditures supporting or opposing candidates. The organization’s slogan, “country over party,” is a rallying cry that many voters turned off by partisan politics have used in their dissatisfaction with the candidates the two main political parties nominated in 2016.

The lineup in Denver was slated to include Byron Mallott, the lieutenant governor of Alaska; Evan McMullin, who ran in several states in 2016 as an independent candidate for president; and Greg Orman, who finished second in the Kansas Senate race in 2014.

Also present was the founder and chairman of Unite America, Charlie Wheelan, whose book, The Centrist Manifesto, was the inspiration and blueprint for the group.

A June Gallup poll shows that more Americans (41 percent) identify as an independent than a member of either the Democratic (30 percent) or Republican (26 percent) parties, which means the opportunity is there for Unite America to pull voters their way.

Troiano says these numbers prove the movement is ripe, “It all begins with a little common sense.”

Washington Examiner

Washington Examiner