Carol Hafner is running for a congressional seat in Alaska despite having never set foot in the state.
Hafner, a 64-year-old retiree, is a Democratic candidate in Alaska even though she has not once visited the state. She had been running on environmental and economic issues, but her campaign began to change after she gained the attention of a state Democratic leader because she used a New Jersey address in her candidacy filings, the Associated Press reported last month.
Her son, Eric Hafner, also ran for a congressional seat this year, in Oregon, using the same New Jersey address as his mother’s but lost the Democratic primary in May. His Oregon filing roused the suspicion of an Anchorage Democratic leader, Julie Olsen, according to the AP.
Hafner told HuffPost in an interview Monday that it is her right to run for office in Alaska, even if she doesn’t currently live there. And she’s not wrong.
The U.S. Constitution requires House representatives to be 25 or older, a U.S. citizen for at least seven years and an inhabitant of the state they represent “when elected.”
If Hafner wins the Democratic nomination in the state primary on Tuesday, she knows she may have to move across the country. She told HuffPost that she would “love to have that land in my lap.”
She said her campaign began out of interest in Alaska’s environmental situation. A New Jersey resident, she experienced Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and its devastating aftermath.
It was her research on climate change that made her realize that Alaska is already feeling the impact and that she wanted to do something about it.
“It’s just not stopping, and the people who really need help in dealing with all of this, unless we reach out and help each other, those people are just innocent victims in all this, and that’s just not acceptable to me,” Hafner said.
She said her research into the issue led her to challenge Alaska’s 23-term incumbent, Rep. Don Young (R). The 84-year-old congressman has been in office for 45 years and is the longest-serving member of the House.
He has made a number of controversial remarks over the years. Hafner said he is like “your crazy uncle Don” and there needs to be a change in leadership.
Amid the ongoing national debate on gun control after February’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, he suggested the Holocaust could have been avoided if Jewish people had armed themselves. He also made headlines when he insinuated that wolves would help solve homelessness in the state.
Hafner said that many of the issues facing Alaskans, such as the economy and the school system, will have to be addressed at the state level but that she hopes voters will give her a chance, look at her history and realize she has been tested on her integrity.
During her 14-year tenure at Brookdale Community College in New Jersey, a former college president was convicted of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the school. She said she received threats during the criminal investigation but stood her ground and told the truth, regardless.
“The learning curve, I can do it,” she said. “But you cannot teach someone ethics and integrity. It’s in their character. And I’ve always done the right thing.”
Hafner knows voters have concerns about her knowledge of local issues and stands by her dedication to the race. She said she’s willing to listen and learn.
In response to her critics, she invited people to read her website and encouraged people to reach out with questions.
“Look at the issues and see how I feel about this. If you like it, vote for me, and if not, then don’t vote for me,” Hafner said.