Unite America

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Unite America
MottoCountry Over Party
PurposeTo reform the American political system
HeadquartersDenver, CO
Charlie Wheelan
AffiliationsUnite New Mexico, Unite Colorado, Maine Independents, Washington Independents, National Association of Nonpartisan Reformers, Bridge Alliance
Formerly called
The Centrist Project

Unite America (previously known as The Centrist Project) is an American grassroots organization founded by professor Charlie Wheelan with the goal of encouraging centrist candidates to run for public office. While not a political party, the project intends to endorse slates of candidates from both parties and provide them with campaign infrastructure, financing, and support.[1]

Unite America is focused on what it calls the "Fulcrum Strategy," electing enough independent-minded candidates to legislative bodies to deny both major parties a majority of seats.[2][3]

Affiliated politicians include: Alaska Governor Bill Walker, Iowa state senator David Johnson, Greg Orman, and Evan McMullin.[4]


Author and Professor Charles Wheelan published The Centrist Manifesto in 2013, inspired by the failed bipartisan efforts surrounding the Simpson-Bowles Commission in 2011.[5] In the book, he outlines an approach to government in which a "Centrist Party" challenges partisanship by controlling the swing vote and facilitating compromise between Democrats and Republicans.[6] Putting ideas into practice, Wheelan worked with business, political, and academic leaders from across the country to form the Centrist Project in 2014, which would eventually become Unite America.[7]

In October 2016, Nick Troiano, former congressional candidate and part of "Forbes 30 under 30" for Law & Policy, joined as executive director.[8] The organization continued to grow through 2017, attracting talent from both sides of the aisle on a mission to elect enough independents to shift the balance of power in key state and statewide elections.[9] Unite America adopted its current name in January 2018, aiming to reflect the organization's core mission.[10] Unite America announced the first-ever nationwide slate of independent candidates in February 2018.[11]


Unite America aims to help independent-minded Republican, Democrat and independent candidates win elections by building the necessary donor network, volunteer support, and electoral infrastructure to do so.[12] It endorses candidates on both state and statewide levels. Unite America candidates and supporters subscribe to a set of principles laid out in the "Declaration of Independents."[13]

"Unity Principles"[edit]

Each of Unite America's endorsed candidates abides by a unifying set of principles. Formerly called the "Declaration of Independents," [14] published in February 2018, the principles are now called the Unity Principles to reflect the larger aims of the organization. Developed by Unite America's leadership, the document lays out the movement's five key tenets:

First, we put the public interest ahead of any partisan or special interest. Government should represent "We the people" – not the party leaders or those who can buy access to power.

Second, we use common sense and find common ground to solve problems. We reject today's zero-sum politics and instead work together with Democrats and Republicans in an inclusive and civil manner to get things done.

Third, we stand for the timeless values of opportunity, equality and stewardship. We want to empower every American to realize their full potential, uphold equal rights for all under the law, and ultimately leave a stronger country for the next generation.

Fourth, we champion integrity, transparency and accountability in politics. We seek to rebuild America's trust in government by holding ourselves to the highest standards of honor and honesty and by fixing the broken incentives that contribute to political dysfunction.

Fifth, we believe in shared responsibility of civic engagement. As Americans, we understand it is our civic duty to be informed and engaged on important issues."[15]


State-focused partnerships[edit]

In an effort to build the movement from the ground up, Unite America endorses and provides resources to independent candidates for state legislatures in a number of viable states, including Colorado, New Mexico, Maine, Alaska, and Washington.[16]

Unite Colorado[edit]

Unite America formalized its Colorado-concentrated efforts for statehouse elections with the organization of its largest state-focused affiliate, Unite Colorado.[17] Troiano identified the state's wide-ranging political leanings and the potential for a historic independent candidate victory as the driving motivations for this strategy.[16] In 2018, Unite Colorado endorsed five independent candidates the Colorado House of Representatives and the Colorado Senate.[16]

Unite New Mexico[edit]

Unite America announced Unite New Mexico on May 24, 2018.[18] The group will endorse independent candidates running for office in New Mexico state legislature in an effort to promote competition amongst 30 of 70 uncontested New Mexico House of Representatives seats.[19]

Washington Independents

Washington Independents, with support from Unite America, launched in fall of 2017 with the intention of supporting independent, centrist candidates in Washington. Its co-founders were Chris Vance, the former chairman of the state's Republican Party, and Brian Baird, a former Democratic Congressman (WA-3).[20] The Political Action Committee spent over $100,000 on three candidates for state office in the 2018 general election. All three lost. In spring of 2019, Washington Independents announced that it would suspend operations.[21]

The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting

In 2018, Unite America endorsed the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, an organization that pushed for the implementation of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) in Maine.[22][23] After a majority of voters approved a RCV citizens ballot initiative in 2016, state lawmakers called a special session to repeal the measure. In the following year, the people of Maine petitioned to override the veto, ultimately voting to restore RCV in Maine in time for the 2018 general election.[24]

Unite Virginia

In March of 2019, Unite America launched Unite Virginia in order to focus on Virginia's off-year state legislative elections.[25] Pivoting from its strategy in the 2018 elections, Unite America chose to support moderate, reform-minded Republicans and Democrats rather than independents. More specifically, it worked with four moderate primary challengers — two on the right and two on the left. Three of the four won their races.[26]

2018 Endorsed National and State Candidates[edit]

Unite America announced the first-ever slate of national candidates in February 2018, including three gubernatorial candidates and two candidates for US Senate.[27]

2018 national candidates
Candidate Distinction State Race Result Vote percentage
Bill Walker Incumbent governor of Alaska[28] Alaska Governor Withdrew N/A
Greg Orman Entrepreneur and managing member of Exemplar Holdings[29] Kansas Governor Lost 6.50%
Terry Hayes State Treasurer of Maine[30] Maine Governor Lost 5.91%
Neal Simon CEO of Bronfman Rothschild and community leader[31] Maryland US Senate Lost 3.74%
Craig O'Dear Corporate trial attorney in Kansas City[32] Missouri US Senate Lost 1.41%
Marty Grohman Entrepreneur; State Representative[33] Maine US House (ME-1) Lost 8.8%

In January 2018, Unite Colorado announced a slate of independent candidates for both the Colorado House of Representatives and the Colorado Senate.[16] In addition, Unite America endorsed independent candidates for state office in Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. All but four were defeated.

2018 state candidates
Candidate Distinction State Position Result Vote percentage
Jason Grenn Incumbent[34] Alaska House District 22 Lost 41.6%
Chris Dimond Union organizer[35] Alaska House District 33 Lost 44.0%
Daniel Ortiz Former high school teacher; Incumbent[36] Alaska House District 36 Won 58.3%
Kathy Knecht Peoria Unified School District Governing Board, member at large[37] Arizona South Dakota 21 Lost 46.7%
Steve Peterson Strategy consultant[38] Colorado Senate District 30 Lost 5.7%
Maile Foster Financial planner; IBM administrator[39] Colorado House District 18 Lost 6.9%
Eric Montoya Thornton, Colorado City Council member[40] Colorado House District 31 Disqualified N/A
Jay Geyer Professor of ethics and political philosophy[41] Colorado House District 33 Lost 4.3%
Thea Chase Director of the Southwest Innovation Corridor[42] Colorado House District 54 Lost 34.0%
Paul Jones Retired Colorado Parks and Wildlife game warden[43] Colorado House District 59 Lost 44.0%
Crystal Canney CEO of The Knight Canney Group[44] Maine Senate District 27 Lost 25.2%
Dennis Welsh Commercial photographer[45] Maine House District 47 Lost 48.8%
Anne Gass Author; Women's rights advocate[46] Maine House District 67 Lost 46.9%
Walter Riseman Business development background[47] Maine House District 69 Won 54.9%
Owen Casas Veteran; Involved in local government; Incumbent[48] Maine House District 94 Lost 47.3%
Ray Ranker Pastor; Activist[49] Maryland House District 21 Lost 6.3%
Tweeti Blancett Sustainable energy advocate[50] New Mexico House District 40 Lost 19.2%
Jarratt Applewhite Nonprofit leader, small business owner[51] New Mexico House District 50 Lost 41.9%
Cory Ann Ellis Small business owner; Community organizer[52] South Dakota House District 7 Lost 14.2%
Laura Sibilia Economic development[53] Vermont House District 127 Won 96.0%
Ben Jickling Incumbent; Local government experience[54] Vermont House District 128 Won 24.9%
John Vihstadt Incumbent; Local government experience[55] Virginia Arlington County Board Lost 46.4%
Dr. Ann Diamond Physician[56] Washington House District 12-A Lost 44.3%
Ned Witting Auditor and financial officer[57] Washington House District 25-B Lost in jungle primary 8.0%
Marco Padilla Co-founder of Bremerton Visionaries; PhD Candidate[58] Washington House District 26-B Lost in jungle primary 5.3%

Board of directors[edit]

Unite America's operating board is made up of leaders from both private and public spheres.[59]


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