Former Reid spokeswoman called ‘underdog’ in congressional race
HENDERSON – Tessa Hafen, the former press secretary to Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, kicked off her campaign to unseat Republican Rep. Jon Porter on Monday, touting her family’s history of public service in Southern Nevada, where she grew up.
“This is my family and this is our home,” Hafen, 29, told about 200 cheering supporters in front of the elementary school she attended in Henderson.
“I want to represent this community in Congress, because this is where I’m from and this is what I’ll fight for,” she said.
Hafen worked for eight years on Capitol Hill on Reid’s staff, first as an intern and then later as press secretary and senior adviser. Her father, Andy Hafen, has been a Henderson city councilman for 20 years.
“Tessa’s a person who didn’t always tell me what I wanted to hear. She often told me what I needed to hear,” said Reid, flanked by Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.
Observers painted Hafen as a long shot against Porter, 50, a twice-elected Nevada congressman who served as Boulder City councilman, mayor and then state assemblyman since entering politics in 1983. He was born in Humboldt, Iowa.
So far, Hafen is the only credible Democrat to seek the party nomination in the state’s 3rd Congressional District, a Y-shaped area that goes from the southern suburbs of Las Vegas to the California border.
Since quitting Reid’s office last month, Hafen has quickly won the support of Democratic leaders in the state, said state party spokeswoman Kirsten Searer.
Eric Herzik, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, said Hafen’s stint in Washington may actually play against her.
“Jon Porter’s a proven commodity. He’s got a long track record of winning elections,” Herzik said. “She’s 29 years old, she hasn’t been in the district in four or five years. It’s not impossible for her, but she is the clear underdog.”
Porter campaign chairman Mike Slanker said Hafen will have to “earn the credibility.”
“Tessa Hafen’s only claim to fame is she worked for a U.S. senator. I have no idea how that can possibly stack up.”
Hafen said of her view on abortion that she is pro-life and defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Nevadans overwhelmingly supported a ballot measure twice that supports that view of marriage.
Porter has $1 million in campaign funds in the bank, Slanker said. Hafen has just begun fundraising.
“I’m going to fight for every vote over the next eight months, but I’ll need the help of every one of you here today to win this election,” Hafen said.
Porter won re-election last year with 54 percent of the vote compared with 40 percent for Democrat Tom Gallagher in the district, which both parties said was split evenly between registered Democratic and Republican voters.
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