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News >  Washington

Republican, Democrat launch centrist group in Washington

UPDATED: Thu., Nov. 16, 2017

Former Democratic Congressman, Brian Baird, left, and former Republican State Representative Chris Vance speak at a news conference Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, in Seattle. They announced the launch of a new effort to promote independent, centrist-minded politicians in Washington state. The move is part of a national movement to curb partisanship. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)
Former Democratic Congressman, Brian Baird, left, and former Republican State Representative Chris Vance speak at a news conference Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, in Seattle. They announced the launch of a new effort to promote independent, centrist-minded politicians in Washington state. The move is part of a national movement to curb partisanship. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)
By Sally Ho Associated Press

SEATTLE – The politically traumatized or in-denial voter is being courted by a new movement that will support independent, centrist-minded candidates for elected office in Washington state.

That includes Republicans who have denounced President Donald Trump and his brand of conservatism, as well as Democrats tired of obeying their embattled leadership.

A former Democratic congressman and a former head of the state GOP have launched the Washington Independents as a “safe place” for nonconfirming politicians.

The group said Thursday that it has about 600 people who have indicated interest in its work. It plans to start out slow and will focus on a handful of Washington state legislative seats for the next election.

Stuart Elway, an independent pollster and political scientist, said the group will face steep structural barriers but will be one to watch, as both political parties forge ahead in their own respective civil wars.

“If there was ever an opportunity in terms of time and place for something like this to work, this is the time and this is the place,” Elway said.

The new political action committee says it will promote ideologically moderate politicians, who may be on the ballot representing any party or none at all. It’s a part of a national movement to curb partisanship. They have so far raised a few thousand dollars on their own and said they were also given $10,000 in seed money by the national Centrist Project.

“People are sick of the two parties. They’re looking for an alternative. This is it,” said Chris Vance, who announced recently that he had left the Republican Party. In 2016, Vance refused to support Trump in the presidential election. The former Republican stalwart later lost badly in the race for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Sen. Patty Murray, who was re-elected. Vance was also once a state representative and the state’s Republican party chairman.

The Washington Independents is not an official party and doesn’t have a full platform of positions on the issues, but the organizers say they’re seeking candidates who would be socially tolerant, fiscally conservative and environmentally responsible.

That means the candidates they back with money, professional campaign assistance and grassroots volunteers will likely have varying shades of red and blue positions.

And who they choose to support will all come down to their current board of directors, made up of 12 local politicians and community members. The new political group says it’s seeking to be a home for the middle and the politically “homeless,” though they concede that their leadership lacks diversity. There are no minorities represented and only two women.

“If a person of color or woman feels like one party or the other is taking them for granted, where do they go? They really, I think, don’t have much of an opportunity right now and we hope to be that opportunity,” said former Democratic congressman Brian Baird, who is co-chairing the Washington Independents with Vance.

Baird said the current board make up is a result of volunteers who have been willing to embrace their “start up” movement so far, and that he expects to diversify the decision-making group.

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