Carol Hafner’s longshot bid for Congress has the potential to make her Alaska’s first female U.S. Representative in history.
There’s one catch: Hafner doesn’t live in the state. In fact, she’s never even visited.
Hafner’s unusual candidacy made headlines earlier this summer, after the Associated Press reported that she listed addresses in New Jersey and South Dakota on her campaign paperwork.
The 64-year-old Democrat said she wanted to run for office to address major issues facing the country, including climate change, the “precarious” state of women’s rights and economic inequality. She decided to seek the seat in Alaska after realizing incumbent Rep. Don Young, a Republican who has called climate change a “scam,” had been in office for decades.
“I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. Forty-five years of this?’” she recalls.
Beyond that, Hafner, who describes herself as a retired “higher education administrator, former flight attendant and biotechnology industry professional,” says she sees serving in Congress an opportunity to “really influence [the country] in a much larger scope in a positive way.”
“I’m not your standard politician here, but you know what, I’ve had it with this bulls---,” she says. “There’s too much going on out there, there’s too much at stake.”
The move may be unconventional, but it’s technically legal, as the United States Constitution only requires that representatives meet age and residency requirements at the time they are elected, according to AP. Election officials in the state confirmed to the AP that, despite challenges filed against her candidacy, she filed her paperwork properly to secure a spot on the ballot.
Hafner, who is currently in New York but described her living situation as “in transition,” defended her strategy of campaigning from afar. Alaskans, she argues, have more in common with residents of the lower 48 than they might realize, especially when it comes to issues like the opioid epidemic and the cost of healthcare.
She’s sought to make up for the lack of physical presence by being active online, updating her website with her positions and offering to answer questions from voters over the phone, tactics that are helping her reach rural residents. “I don’t know where this is going to go tomorrow,” she says. “I’m just as curious as everyone else.
And if she wins? “I’ll have to go,” she says, adding that Denali National Park and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would be at the top of her must-see destinations as a representative (and new resident).
Hafner is one of four candidates — including two women — running in Alaska’s Democratic primary on Tuesday. The winner will take on Young, who first took office in 1973, for the state’s one at-large House seat. A successful bid by Hafner or Alyse Galvin, an independent who has highlighted her deep ties to the state and history as a lifelong Alaskan in seeking the Democratic nomination, would make history, according to The Center for American Women and Politics’ Gender Watch project.
Alaska isn’t the only state where voters will head to the polls on Tuesday.
Wyoming also holds its primary elections. Two women — Democrat Mary Throne and Republican Harriet Hageman — are running for the state’s open gubernatorial seat, with Throne seen as a likely contender to advance to the general election there. Only one woman, Democrat Nellie Tayloe Ross, has served as governor in the state’s history. That election, which followed the death of her husband, Gov. William Ross, was more than 90 years ago. The state isn’t set to make any gains when it comes to representation in its congressional delegation, where women currently fill one out of three seats.