Patrick Gannon: Recruiting moderates

Published 12:07 am Tuesday, October 13, 2015

RALEIGH – Just so you know, people and organizations are out there trying to put an end to the partisan politics that have left Congress incapable of moving the United States forward in any meaningful way on the most pressing issues of today – the national debt, economy, environment and immigration, to name a few.

Will they get anywhere? Let’s hope.

One such group is The Centrist Project, which hopes to help five independent candidates get elected to the U.S. Senate by 2020. If that happens, Centrist Project officials say, moderates in both parties might move to the political center, giving the group power to control the Senate agenda.

“We need a third political force of the middle to force the two major parties – their extreme elements – to find middle-ground solutions to the problems that face all of us,” said Jim Jonas, a North Carolina native, former Republican operative and consultant to The Centrist Project.

The Centrist Project is shaking trees in a number of states, including North Carolina, looking for independent candidates to support in upcoming U.S. Senate elections. They want candidates who support fiscal and environmental responsibility, social tolerance and economic opportunity for all.

Although an uphill battle to break through the partisan gridlock in Washington, the project sees hope in a number of ways. Donald Trump’s success in the Republican race for president shows many people have tired of the establishment. The growing number of voters across the country who don’t identify with either Republicans or Democrats also is a positive sign.

“There is disruption happening in national politics,” Jonas said. “There is an incredible opportunity in 2016 and beyond for independents who are funded enough and savvy enough to run competitive races in the right places.”

The Centrist Project hopes to support four or five candidates across the country in 2016 with financial and political resources. The group hasn’t found a candidate in North Carolina for next year, but is looking for independent business leaders or current or former politicians who fit the mold. Without the right candidate here though – and quickly – The Centrist Project would pass on North Carolina next year and focus elsewhere. The filing period for candidates is in December.

The Centrist Project has identified several states where it might be successful, taking into account past voting behavior, ideological factors, voter registration trends and candidate filing deadlines. North Carolina has elected both Republicans and Democrats at the state level, more voters are registering unaffiliated and new voters moving to the state are highly educated and less likely to be “crazy partisans,” Jonas said. Most Americans are moderates, according to the projects website,

“So why do we keep electing extremists?” the website states. “There’s got to be a better way.” And that might be the understatement of the century.

Patrick Gannon writes columns for the Capitol Press Association.