Meet NC’s unaffiliated congressional candidate

Shelane Etchison is a veteran who was among the first to serve in an all-female Special Operations program

Shelane Etchison collected more than 10,000 signatures to become the state’s first unaffiliated candidate to get on the ballot in a congressional race. (Courtesy Shelane Etchison)

RALEIGH — As the first unaffiliated Congressional candidate in modern North Carolina history, Shelane Etchison says her candidacy is about “breaking barriers.”

“What I like to tell voters is that we know that we’re not being served the way we’re supposed to be with our elected leaders in Washington,” said Etchison. “We’ve given them more than enough chances to prove that they can work together and actually start doing their jobs and working for the American people, and they keep failing us time and time and time again.

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“This candidacy is all about breaking barriers. I’m the first person ever in our state to get on the ballot fighting to get all the signatures we needed to get on the ballot and give the voters a choice.”

She said it’s now up to voters to “send that message loud and clear to the establishment that they are tired of the lack of results that they’re getting,” and that they can vote for a candidate like her.

After collecting around 12,000 signatures, some 8,000 were eventually verified, qualifying her to be on the 9th District Congressional ballot. Etchison’s campaign is being run by Thomas Mills, a longtime Democratic consultant and founder of the website “Politics NC.”

The 9th District incumbent is Rep. Richard Hudson, a Republican first elected to that seat after redistricting in 2022. Prior to redistricting changes, he had been the representative for District 8 since 2012. Also running in the 9th District race is Democrat Nigel Bristow.

Etchinson, a 38-year-old from the town of Vass in Moore County, described her unaffiliated candidacy in an interview with North State Journal as giving the voters more choices. She said more voters are registering as unaffiliated, noting “people are dissatisfied,” and are “opting out of the status quo of the two main parties.”

“I’m not happy with the direction that’s going in,” Etchison said of the U.S. and its politics. “And so I decided I want to get into the mix politically, but I don’t want to be contributing to the problem. I want to help be the solution.”

Following the 9/11 terror attacks on the U.S., Etchison was commissioned as an officer in the Army, a first in her family. She spent 11 years in the military, mainly deployed in a Special Operations pilot program of an all-female unit attached to the Army Rangers and Navy Seals in the Middle East. Her first deployment was to Iraq and, later, in Syria where she worked closely with Kurdish female militias fighting ISIS.

“Pretty incredible experience,” she said. She added that her role in collecting intelligence “really helped bridge some divisions with special operators that were quite skeptical about women being there.”

Etchison said the border, debt and foreign wars are all major issues, but she pointed to something more fundamental as the biggest.

“I think our issues are much deeper than that,” she said. “It goes into trust in our institutions — trust that our democracy is fair and representative, and trust that the people we elect to represent us have our best interests at heart. I think that the lack of trust that we’re experiencing and the divisions that we’re experiencing actually are very, very real threats to the preservation of our country moving forward.”

Etchison said people on the campaign trail call her candidacy “refreshing” and “hopeful.”

“I hear a lot about people who are just exhausted and tired of the political in-fighting and the lack of results,” said Etchison. “There’s so many young people who just don’t feel like affording a home or owning a home is in the cards. For them, they’re opting out of marriage and families.”

She also said she hears a lot about the border crisis.

“That’s a big issue. That’s something that you would think could be resolved and there’s consensus to resolving it,” said Etchison. “And it’s just really frustrating to voters that our Congress and our leaders just can’t get it together when it seems like such an obvious, noncontroversial problem that should be solved.

“You know, it’s honestly hard to keep up with the back and forth on the border. I think there’s merit to the argument that (the Biden administration’s) effort is just ‘too little, too late’ when there were executive orders that were reversed when he first got into office.

“My takeaway from all of this is it’s ‘politics as usual,’” she added.

She also said “people are very frustrated with affordability issues” and “they’re working multiple jobs and still just barely scraping by — that’s not the American dream to them.”

Etchison is also a proponent of fixing what she perceived is wrong with government, including backing term limits.

“What I really want to hit home is, ‘How do we right the wrongs of the system that’s not serving us?’” she said. “So that looks like tamping down on corruptive practices, whether that’s dark money in politics, whether that’s the revolving door of politicians and lobbyists, or term limits, for goodness sake.

Etchison also said she supports “independent redistricting commissions to help with the gerrymandering,” “being an advocate for open primaries” and “rank choice voting,” ideas pushed by Democrats.

“Those reforms are going to be able to get more kind of interest in moderate candidates available to voters,” Etchison said. “And they’re going to feel more represented and they’re going to like their options better than what they’re getting right now.”

Etchison received her undergraduate degree from the University of Central Florida, has an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a master’s in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

For more information on Etchison and her campaign, visit etchisonforcongress.com/.

About A.P. Dillon 1342 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_