In an effort to give fair time to every Democratic candidate seeking the nomination and, to date, doomed opportunity to run against the longest-serving and the oldest member of the U.S. Congress, I spent a thoroughly entertained more than wasted hour of my Saturday getting to know Carol 'Kitty' Hafner.
Going into the phone call I knew Hafner was a Molotov cocktail-throwing no-hoper in a busy field, but I was intrigued by her e-mail response to my Q&A with Alyse Galvin last week, in which Hafner called bullshit on frontrunner Alyse Galvin's claims to having made no in-roads with oil and gas in Alaska when her husband works for a big oil firm.
I like the spunk on this one, I thought to myself, but about 10 minutes into the conversation I discovered that not only does Hafner not live in Alaska, she's never even been to Alaska.
Apparently, there's a loophole in not just Alaska law, but nationwide, that does not require any candidate to reside in the state they wish to represent until such time as they take office. Typically, such runs only gain any traction at all in states, like Alaska, that have only one at-large representative.
My first take upon coming to this realization was that a nuisance candidate like Hafner isn't likely to do much damage taking advantage of this loophole as far as an Alaskan primary goes, but imagine what a celebrity with a considerable following could just about push it over the top. Imagine Stephen Colbert running his cat against an inextricable cat like Don Young in the Republican primary. In a state that just about creamed its pants over John Oliver donating some Russell Crowe memorabilia to a Blockbuster on DeBarr, there's no telling the damage to the sanctity of the voting process that could be done, by an Oliveresque proxy.
My second thought was that I should reach out to Alaska Democratic Party head Jay Parmley for his thoughts on Hafner's candidacy.
Faced with the bigger goal of trying to end an 0-fer-22 slump against Young, Parmley seems somewhere between lightly annoyed and altogether nonplussed with Hafner's candidacy.
"Nothing precludes her from running," Parmley said. "The Constitution says Congress will determine its own makeup. The other thing in the Constitution is that you must be a resident of the state you are elected in by the time you are sworn it, so it doesn't really require anyone to live in the state at all."
Parmley said Hafner is registered as a Democrat in New Jersey and a Republican in South Dakota, where in a little town called Box Elder, just outside of Rapid City, she calls the closest thing to home she knows how.
Years as a flight attendant have learned her better than call anyplace home, but in the event she puills off, literally the most improbable upset in the history of Congressional primaries, she's primed to not just scratch Alaska off her bucket list, but to call it her new home.
The Facebook page for Hafner's candidacy has just three likes - well, two if you don't count me - so she is certainly no serous threat to either Galvin or hard-running underdog Dimitri Shein for the nomination, but sometimes an unintentially comedic take from the outside beats the hell out of a issues scrutiny from within, so without further ado, here goes a truncated version of Carol 'Kitty' Hafner's Candidate Q&A.
Why are you running?
I've always been really passionate and concerned about our environment. It's not a cliché for me. As a kid, I was heavily interested in science - I was a biology major and I stayed with the sciences. It's a love of mine; it came easily. It was a passion and just a part of who I was.
I haven an interest in being a 'Green' person and, as the years went by, it became imbedded in who I am today. I was fortunate as a flight attendant to have traveled all over the world.
What year did you move to Alaska?
Oh, I don't live in Alaska. I've never been there.
Congress says that this is permissible; it's perfectly fine to do so. Actually, it's a good thing to help states in more remote areas in the country have representation. It's up to the people and if you can't find good people where you're at, it's like a company that probes from within and then looks out.
As I looked at states, I saw Don Young, and I can't believe you've had the same congress guy for 45 years. I'm not being critical but Alaska is tanking, economically and when you realize you've got bigger things than you, if we pull together, we've got a prayer of a chance, but you can't keep ignoring all of these warning signs.
So where do you call home now?
South Dakota is my home base, but to be honest, I don't have a home now. I've been in transition it's one of those airline things. Once you've put on a uniform and get the suitcase thing going, it's a wonderful thing and I'm grateful for it. It brings me a lot of joy and keeps my life very full and informed.
Certainly, winning the primary, I'd pack things up and head to Alaska, but I've been on call for a good portion of my life. I get the call and then pack up and go.
What was the 'Eureka!' moment that led you to run?
I read about Don Young and said, 'you gotta be kidding me - in this day and age?'
This guy has been in office for 45 years and the stunts he's puilled - fined for taking money, trips on taxpayer money, trips, his behavior - I wouldn't have believed it, but it was incredible. I felt bad for the people he represents. I've never pulled a knife on anyone in the halls of Congress!
I do understand that incumbents in other states, too, aren't doing their jobs and still get 95 percent re-elected and people begin to feel hopeless.
You never even had a stop-over in Alaska in your years as a flight attendant?
No, but I did have a Northwest (Airlines) training mate from Alaska. Honestly, between you and me she wasn't real happy. I kind of felt sorry for her. She had a little baby and her husband was a pilot... But we didn't have a very close friendship.
Do you have campaign people on the ground in Alaska? Any lawn signs at least?
No, not at all. To be perfectly honest, I think signs are very wasteful, they're plastic, the ink smells really strong, just piles and piles of them and the wire that pokes them into the ground.
When I see 20, in sequence, over and over and over again, it's not a green thing to do. Intellectually too, people should read about the issues, rather than just go by advertising.
Well, how many votes do you think you'll get like that?
Who the heck knows? It's hard to say. Years ago, I knew of a race where everybody thought the (incumbent) candidate was a sure thing. They were so confident they lost. It was a huge, huge upset. The issues are really important and if people read the issues carefully, people are going to be impressed with what i have to say. In primaries, it's a low turnout, historically, not really indicative of what you may project. It's anybody's guess and anything can happen.
Is there anything you're doing from afar to target Alaska Democratic voters?
I reach out here and there.. I'm not an aggressive person and I think my stance on my issues speaks for itself. I'm pretty clear about what I say; I'm not misrepresenting myself, and that's what resonated with me with Alyse Galvin.
First of all, I thought she was this struggling working mom, then come to find her husband is an extremely well-to-do CEO for Great Bear Petroleum.
I waitressed my way though college, I'm not going to misrepresent herself.
How will voters know about you?
For 45 years they haven't cared about who represented them. I don't know. There are people that I'm hearing from that are interested. I think it's reached a point where people are so downtrodden and discouraged - it's an uphill strugggle and they're also worried about the economy. When you've got so many concerned people, that's how these primaries get overlooked. That's the uniqueness of my candidacy, I'm a 'wait, what?'
It perks their interest and that's a good thing. The issues - I have some things on my website.
Is there a danger in a candidacy like yours, that someone with a huge social media following could just crowdsource their way into affecting or winning a race without ever stepping foot in the state they represent?
As much as we live in a Kardashian world, people actually have to vote, and again, there's far more to it in electing somebody. You may do a gee-whiz moment looking at it, but you gotta look at headlines, you see all of what Trump is doing - apparently he did insult the Queen today, and if I was a betting person, I would've bet it was going to happen. So I guess, in some ways, Don Young is your Donald Trump in Alaska. It's an embarrassment and he's gotta go.
People do look deeper and they may not look deep enough. I can only offer my platform, not just for Alaska, but for people all around the country.
I think I'm pretty darn in the ballpark.
Parmley, for his part, is pleased with the realistic candidates already living in Alaska and is hopeful one of them can send the 85-year-old into retirement.
"Here's how I really feel about it. We have two candidates that have been campaigning very hard, criss-crossing the state in Alyse Galvin and Dimitri Shein, and we have a third Democrat from Ketchikan, Chris Cummings, who's a legitimate (candidate)," he said. "We don't endorse in this primary, but voters should take into consideration that two of these candidates are working very hard and a third may well be, too."