Wednesday, April 03, 2024

Year of the Independent Candidate?


I was impressed when an Unaffiliated candidate for Watauga CoCommish, Jon Council, qualified to be on the November ballot as an independent. He was required to gather 4% of the registered voters in his district to meet the threshold. He got way more signatures than he needed.

Shelane Etchison

It's a much higher threshold for an Unaffiliated candidate seeking to run for a US House seat, but Shelane Etchison far exceeded her required 7,460 petition signatures to get on the ballot as an independent in the NC 9th Congressional District. She gathered over 12,000 signatures, which is actually damn impressive.

I first heard about Etchison from political analyst Thomas Mills, who also happens to be advising her campaign. I trust Mills's judgment in most things, and while Etchison is probably far more conservative than a lot of Democrats. But according to Mills, "she became disillusioned with a [Republican] party that espoused support for liberty and individual freedom but opposed women’s rights to reproductive health. Overturning Roe v Wade solidified her break with the GOP." Congressman Richard Hudson, the Republican incumbent in CD9, adheres to the current GOP orthodoxy on denying women their rights.

Mills breaks down the partisan makeup of CD9 as 35% Unaffiliated, 35% Republican, and 30% Democrat. The Democrat who filed against Hudson, Anson County probation officer Nigel Bristow, is a novice in his first run for office and on the surface of things the newly gerrymandered 9th CD looks pretty impossible for a Democrat, especially an unknown with little base support. It would take a sizable portion of the Democratic minority to abandon the Democrat candidate and support Etchison, even if she was able to motivate the great majority of the Unaffiliated voters in the district. Etchison might just pull that off. It's a district with Ft. Liberty, the former Ft. Bragg, with many active and retired military, and Etchison's biography, as portrayed by Mills, will impress many:

She was in high school when the country was attacked on 9/11 and felt called to serve. She joined ROTC in college and commissioned into the army in 2008. In 2011, she became one of twenty women attached to the 75th Ranger Regiment, providing support on direct combat operations in Afghanistan.

According to a Fox News report, “During the Afghanistan War, special operations forces hunted high-value Taliban and al-Qaeda targets. But the all-male teams weren't allowed to speak with women and children due to cultural norms, causing the U.S. and Afghan militaries to lose out on critical intelligence. As a result, the all-female Cultural Support Team was formed. Before long, the women proved themselves and won over not just the Rangers Etchison was embedded with, but top brass at the Pentagon.” Etchison also served in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.


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