A newly formed organization, Unite America, has released its first slate of candidates for public office, including a U.S. Senate hopeful for Missouri.
The group says it's building a national movement to challenge the gridlocked and historically unpopular two party system. Formerly known as the Centrist Project, Unite America says it's a purely independent group that hopes to bring new ideas to the political system, without taking sides with either Republicans or Democrats.
The group's first six candidates from across the nation include Craig O'Dear, a Kansas City based attorney running for U.S. Senate. Nick Troiano, executive director of Unite America, says recent events have solidified the need for a new party to emerge.
"We're getting more shutdowns than solutions," Troiano says. "So we think there needs to be new electoral competition to force both parties back to the center where they can actually find common ground and work with each other."
The announcement comes at a time when a rapidly increasing groundswell of independent activism is gaining momentum. Nationally, 44 percent of Americans identify as independent - up five points from 2016 - and 61 percent say they want an alternative to the Democratic and Republican parties, according to Gallup polls.
Missouri candidate Craig O'Dear says his background as a lawyer, and the ability to solve complex and emotionally charged issues, is what's needed in the Senate.
Unite America is also backing Senate candidates for Maryland and Wyoming, and Governor Bill Walker of Alaska, the only independent governor in office. And it has released a "Declaration of Independents," a statement that defines its approach to governing. Troiano says it puts the emphasis on ideas and policies, rather than the party they're coming from.
"Being committed to finding common ground between both sides, being committed to the idea of using facts and reason to come up with policy solutions, rather than being 'for' or 'against' ideas depending on where they come from," he says. "So, this is a new model of governance that puts people over party."
Troiano says Unite America wants to use what is known as the "Fulcrum Strategy" - getting just enough independent candidates into office to deny a solid majority for either Republicans or Democrats. He says the goal is to prompt lawmakers to find common ground and get things done.