Candidate in Alaska is Living in NJ but Doesn’t Want to Say Where
As a Democratic candidate for Alaska's seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, Carol Hafner calls the state the "front lines" in the fight to protect the environment. The only problem is the New Jersey native and current resident has never been to the place that calls itself the last frontier.
Hafner may have never been to the state but she believes there are common threads from growing up in Monmouth County and her travels that will help her beat two other Democrats. The winner of next month's primary will take on Congressman Don Young, who has been in office since 1973.
"I have always been a very adamantly green person my entire life," she said. "Part of it is maybe the way I was raised. I respect the environment."
According to Alaska law, Hafner only needs to live in Alaska at the time of her election. She said she will wait to see how she does in the primary before deciding if she will make the trip to the state. She also knows that in a state as vast as Alaska, even if she went there she likely wouldn't be able to meet all her potential constituents, which is why she's very happy to use her website and social media to share her agenda.
While very open about her views about her opponents and the environment Hafner is less open about her ties to the state she currently calls home. She would not identify where in New Jersey she has lived or where she currently lives now.
"I had nothing to do with where I came into this world, and I really do think it's irrelevant," she said.
When asked what the dateline should be for this story, Hafner would not say where she was in New Jersey, saying she preferred Box Elder, South Dakota, which is the address she has listed on paperwork filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Hafner said she remembers celebrating her first Earth Day in the 1970s and seeing the Jersey Shore polluted as a child. She said she does not want to see the country's northern-most state have its natural beauty damaged in a pursuit of economic gains.
"The issues that are impacting Alaska, they do impact the rest of the world. If none of this affected me it wouldn't hit home, but it does." she said. "The economy, unfortunately, is completely wrapped around the oil industry. Combine the environmental issues and that's not a good future. I feel strongly, as awful as all of this stuff is, we've got to just step right up to the plate and cohesively do something together."
This is also not the first time the Hafner name has appeared on a ballot outside of New Jersey. Her son Eric ran unsuccessfully for Congress as a Democrat earlier this year. She told the Associated Press that he also ran for Congress in Hawaii two years ago.
"Don't lock me out just because I'm not a homeboy," she told the AP. "You ought to be thankful that I care enough and I'm interested enough and passionate enough to want to make things better."
Hafner has had many jobs over time including working as a flight attendant, and also as an employee of Brookdale Community College. State pension records show she worked for the school for 14 years, retiring in 2013, for which she now collects a disability pension of $22,300. An agenda from a meeting of the school's board of trustees shows Hafner was granted an unpaid disability leave for the month of November in 2013, when she was the College Relations Coordinator.
She said she was living in New Jersey when Super Storm Sandy hit, and that she was personally affected by the damage the storm caused. Hafner called the experience a "deep wound, within me and my life is still not on track because of that."
On her website she also identifies herself as a retired union member of the National Education Association, and a "biotechnology industry professional." She also claims to have been an "active member of the transportation worker unions, where she took part in labor actions in solidarity with energy industry workers."
The feeling of thankfulness may not have made its way to Democrats in Alaska quite yet.
"You may have a right to run, doesn't mean you're going to be well-received, or it's going to be an easy campaign for you," state Democratic party executive director Jay Parmley told the AP. "If you're not from somewhere, that's a pretty tall order."
The Alaska primary is set for Aug. 21.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report