U.S. Sen. Richard Burr is backing a Republican Party effort called “Project Listen” that the party describes as a “new initiative to better connect Republican candidates with Mecklenburg and Wake County voters.”
Wake and Mecklenburg have, by far, more Republican voters than any other counties in the state, and statewide Republican candidates see opportunity for more votes in the state’s largest counties. The effort comes as the national political parties try to discern effects of demographic shifts underway in the U.S.
Outgoing party chairman Claude Pope said in a statement that the idea is to find common ground with more voters.
“Mecklenburg and Wake Counties are not only among the fastest growing regions in the state, but the entire nation,” Pope said. “It is imperative that our team of candidates have a better understanding of the issues impacting these voters and how to better communicate with them. This gives the NCGOP a historic opportunity to also become one of the fastest growing parties in the nation. To that end, we’re announcing our efforts to have an open, frank, and ongoing discussion with all North Carolinians – regardless of party or ideology – about the values and common ground we share.”
Wake has about 178,000 registered Republicans and Mecklenburg has about 161,000 Republicans, though both represent fewer than 30 percent of all registered voters. Guilford County has the next-highest concentration of GOP voters, with about 91,000 registered Republicans.
The party said it wants to ensure growth and electoral success “by better understanding the demographic forces shaping the state.”
“Project Listen was created to do just that: for voters to have a greater voice in what they think – whether good, bad, ugly, or indifferent,” Burr said in a statement. “It’s a two-way conversation on where we want to go as a state and party, and how we get there by working together.”
Burr is gearing up for a re-election campaign and will be on the ballot in November 2016.
Burr lost Wake County in 2004 with about 47 percent of the vote, but he won the county in 2010 with 49 percent.
In Mecklenburg County, Burr lost with 44 percent of the vote in 2004, and 46 percent in 2010.
Raleigh congressman George Holding and Susan Tillis, wife of U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, will lead a GOP committee that will issue a report to the state party’s leaders by the end of 2015. The work will include “issue research” and “brand assessment.”
“To those who’ll claim that this is just ‘style over substance’ or a ‘move to the middle,’ let’s be clear – we’re unwavering in our core values and beliefs,” Pope said. “What we seek is a better understanding of individuals and communities that share those beliefs, but may not identify with our ‘party brand.’ Project Listen will provide the feedback and tools we need to build bridges, form new partnerships and achieve common goals.”