Joe Sestak, Christine Todd Whitman join Forward Party, a new third political party

Up-close photo of Joe Sestak speaking into a microphone.

File photo: Joe Sestak speaks at a campaign event in 2017. He is among the group of politicians supporting a new third political party started by former presidential candidate Andrew Yang. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Former Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Sestak and former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman are supporting a new third political party started by former presidential candidate AndrewYang.

Whitman, a former Republican, and Yang, a former Democrat, will lead the centrist Forward Party as co-chairpeople.

The Forward Party aims to “give Americans more choices in elections, more confidence in a government that works, and more say in our future.”

“It’s time for us to do something to ensure that the vast majority of the American people have a place to go,” Whitman told WHYY.

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Gallup polling data from June show that 43% of Americans consider themselves Independent, while 27% consider themselves Democrat and 27% consider themselves Republican.

“People are fed up. They’re angry. And they’re retiring from the field,” Whitman said.

Sestak, a Democrat who now lives in Virginia, told WHYY that he believes the biggest issue in America today is trust.

Sestak said he believes that many of our leaders have been putting their political party ahead of the nation.

“On a ship, the captain is given authority and responsibility more than any other crew member. You let that crew come to harm, that captain is held accountable. If he or she is not, that crew loses trust because that captain is above accountability. When you lose trust, a ship loses its purpose. And I think that’s what’s happening to the United States ship today,” said Sestak, a retired Navy admiral.

Sestak said he hopes the Forward Party will bring the nation together.

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The Forward Party aims to do that by supporting — and eventually running — more moderate candidates.

“We have a left and right and they’re getting further left and further right,” Whitman said. “Part of that is because people haven’t been voting in primaries. And part of that is because they don’t like their choices.”

Neither Whitman nor Sestak believe the Forward Party will “spoil” elections, as some say third parties do.

“What’s to spoil? Most people think the system is already spoiled,” Whitman said. “We’re a national party. We’re not about single issues. We’re about being in the center.”

Whitman said the Forward Party will focus first on fighting for fair and open elections, including open primaries, rank-choice voting, and other measures that will make it easier for people to vote.

“We should make it so that every person that is legally able to vote has the opportunity to vote,” Whitman said.

Forward Party leaders plan to go on a listening tour in 2023 to find out what issues voters want the party to focus on.

Party leaders aim to have the Forward Party registered in 15 states by the end of this year, and in all 50 states by the end of next year, Whitman said. They want to have candidates on ballots in all 50 states by 2024.

“I’ve had lots of people reach out to say, ‘Finally, we wanted this,’” Whitman said. “We feel we’re responding to a need or a desire that’s out there. We’ll see… If you don’t try it, you’re never going to know.”

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