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Politics

Ex-Republican Rhinehardt Seeks NC Senate Bid As Independent

An American flag flies at half staff at the U.S. Capitol to honor two U.S. Capitol Police officers who died following the violence on Capitol Hill in Jan. 2021.
An American flag flies at half staff at the U.S. Capitol to honor two U.S. Capitol Police officers who died following the violence on Capitol Hill in Jan. 2021.

A longtime Republican and former Capitol Hill staffer says she’s aiming to run for a North Carolina U.S. Senate seat next year as an independent candidate.

Kimrey Rhinehardt of Pittsboro has started collecting the nearly 83,200 signatures of registered voters she’d need for her name to be on the ballot in fall 2022. She’s got 13 months to meet the threshold, according to the State Board of Elections.

Rhinehardt, who runs a consulting firm, told news outlets she officially changed her affiliation a few days after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot by extremist supporters of Donald Trump who tried to stop the certification of Joe Biden's victory. Trump and many Republicans amplified falsehoods about the elections.

"I felt like I had no political home,” Rhinehardt said. “I think I’m on a mission to create one. Not just for me but people who feel the same that I do.”

Rhinehardt, 46, hopes to succeed GOP Sen. Richard Burr, who announced several years ago his plans not to seek another term in 2022.

Rhinehardt, who once worked for Burr as a U.S. House staffer, also previously worked as a lobbyist for the University of North Carolina system. She's now also a faculty member at UNC-Wilmington.

Rhinehardt said her campaign will be about “finding new voices and offering better choices” for North Carolina voters. She said her beliefs have aligned with both Burr and former UNC system President Erskine Bowles, a Democrat who was once President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff.

“I want North Carolina’s voices to be heard. I don’t want it to be a party-driven message,” she said.

Several other people have already announced their Senate candidacies, including Democrats Jeff Jackson, Erica Smith and Richard Watkins and Republican Mark Walker.

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