Independents nationwide are turning to Alaska Gov. Bill Walker for 2018 inspiration

Gov. Bill Walker prepares for the 2017 State of the State Address. (Photo by Office of the Governor)

More than a dozen disaffected Republicans and a handful of moderate Democrats are hoping to recreate Gov. Bill Walker’s 2014 independent run in their 2018 races for governorships and U.S. Senate seats, Politico reports today.

The candidates are reportedly meeting in Philadelphia this coming weekend to discuss a coordinated strategy and the pooling of resources in order to chart independent paths to office in the era of a historically unpopular Republican president and a Democratic party in shambles.

Politico reports Walker is becoming a model for candidates hoping to connect with voters who’re fed up with party politics. Walker ditched his Republican party affiliation just months before winning office.

“I think they may have seen the path, perhaps that they don’t have to necessarily fit into a particular box,” Walker said of running as an independent on Politico’s Off Message podcast, which reported the details of the upcoming meeting. “They can just be themselves and get elected.”

The meeting is being coordinated through the Centrist Project, a political group intent on helping moderate independents win elected office. Both Walker and independent state Rep. Jason Grenn went to Washington, D.C., in July to attend the group’s “Independents Day” event.

Walker’s 2014 win came the same year in which independent Rep. Dan Ortiz was elected. A larger slate of independent candidates materialized in 2016 with mixed success. Despite big spending on those new races, only Grenn found victory.

Walker said bucking the party system and going it alone isn’t easy, but there are advantages in not being beholden to party politics when running for office and when governing.

“I do think it’s not easy, the rules aren’t really written to make it easy,” he said on the podcast. “Those of us who run as independent candidates have to work a little harder, we have to be more creative and figure out how to get it done.”

Who’ll be there

The candidates at the upcoming meeting include former Utah House aide Evan McMullin, who attempted an independent run for president in 2016 and is expected to make a 2018 run against Sen. Orrin Hatch; Terry Hayes, Maine’s state treasurer, who’s already announced plans to run for governor; and Greg Orman, who came close to beating Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts in 2014 and is expected to run for Kansas governor in 2018.

Other candidates planning on attending the meeting haven’t been made public, according to the report, but the group includes a handful of wealthy individuals interested in self-funding campaigns next year.

No word, yet, if Walker will be attending.

More on the interview

Though many of the independent candidates are motivated by anti-Trump factors, Walker was hesitant to pin the rise in independent interest on the President Donald Trump throughout the interview. He said the new administration has been more interested in allowing resource development to move forward than the previous.

And, as is the case whenever an Alaskan is interviewed on the national stage, there was plenty of interest in former Gov. Sarah Palin.

“Honestly, we hear more about them in the national press than we do in the statewide press,” Walker said.

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