More Independent Candidates are Winning Elections, and That's a Good Thing

2017's Independent candidate victories could spark the shock to America's outdated two-party system.

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Nov 28 2017, 5:45pm

Image via Wikimedia Commons

This is an opinion piece by Joel Searby, Senior Strategist of the Centrist Project, a grassroots organization that aims to empower the majority of Americans in the sensible center and elect independent candidates to office in order to bridge the growing partisan divide in the country.

Independent political candidates never win in the United States.” So goes one of the most worn out criticisms I hear when talking to people all around the country about the importance of electing independent leaders up and down the ballot. This month, that old line has taken a pretty good beating – and it’s a win for the nation.

"Real movements of change often begin with a small core of committed people who have a clear mission, stick together and keep working hard in spite of the challenges."

Independents have won a few local races here and there over the years. But there’s something different about this year, and there are new things happening behind the scenes that are important. First, though, credit where it’s due to a few of those winners.

  • Ben Walsh won the race for mayor in Syracuse, New York – a significant city in a significant state – with a new and compelling vision for the city and, I believe more importantly, for how politics should be conducted for the good of the country, not a party. In Ben’s words, he ran as an independent, “At a time when partisan and personal politics all too often get in the way of doing what’s best for our community.” What has often amounted to a throw-away line by mainstream party politicians to help them feel better and get votes was actually a way of doing business for Walsh. There has not been an independent mayor of Syracuse since 1913. Walsh’s win is significant.
  • In Colorado, Sam Nizam won re-election to the Thornton City Council as an independent with nearly 40 percent of the vote in a three way race. Another common criticism of independents is that they just split the vote and elect the person you least like. Sam won a three-way race fair and square. And in a state where there are more independents than either Democrats or Republicans.
  • In Charlottesville, Virginia independent Nikuyah Walker won a spot on the City Council as well. In this city so roiled by events of the past year she ran on a clear, focused agenda driven by her passion and very specifically as an independent, not a spoiler or partisan. She became the first non-Democrat in a decade to hold a council seat in Charlottesville

The really exciting thing about these and other wins is that something ties these races together in new ways and is growing around the nation.

Behind all these wins is a movement.


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A growing number of voters, donors and organized groups are throwing their weight behind independents. People are realizing that continuing to do the same thing over and over again while expecting different results truly is insanity. And it’s making a difference.

In these races, outside groups are getting involved to support their bids with money, people and paid communications, among other things. Sam Nizam was an endorsed and supported candidate of the Centrist Project – a group dedicated to electing independents around the country for whom I serve as the Senior Strategist. We are working to elect state legislators in Colorado, Alaska and Maine, among other states. And we are quietly building an incredible group of candidates for governor, US Senate and US House that we believe will upend national politics for the good.

"Every win by an independent is a step towards fixing our broken partisan politics and its death-grip on America."

Other groups are seeing it too and spooling up to help make it happen in more places. We are supporting and aligned with groups like the Maine Independents and Washington Independents, among others. These groups are doing the hard work at the state level of helping to elect and resource independents. In Maine alone there were already two elected independent state legislators and 4 more have unaffiliated since the November election bringing the total to six and creating a new, healthy dynamic in the state house.

What does all this mean for the future and what can someone do if they want to see more of it? For starters, every win by an independent is a step towards fixing our broken partisan politics and its death-grip on America. We need more independent leaders and as they get wins we need to celebrate and support them. If this is something that is important to you, get involved.

Sign up to be a supporter of The Centrist Project, the only national organization whose sole mission is to elect independents. Support independent candidates wherever they arise. Donate to them and volunteer on their campaigns. There are already a bunch of great ones out there and more to come.

More to the point, maybe you should write an encouraging note to Ben Walsh, Sam Nizam or Nikuyah Walker. I’m sure they’d love to hear from you.

Real movements of change often begin with a small core of committed people who have a clear mission, stick together and keep working hard in spite of the challenges. Eventually, they start getting wins. Then they get more. Pretty soon they change the trajectory of history.

We’re here and we’re not giving up. The independents are coming