CARSON CITY -- Las Vegas lawyer Jacob Hafter, a Republican candidate for attorney general, only joined the Grand Old Party when he registered on Dec. 14 in Clark County, he acknowledged Friday.
According to records from the secretary of state's office, Hafter, a Southern Nevada native who moved back to the state in 2004, never has voted in any election in Nevada. He registered as a Democrat in 2005 when he lived in Washoe County and did not register to vote again after he moved to Las Vegas in 2007.
"I am not going to lie that I wasn't a Democrat, but then so were a lot of other people," said Hafter, who said he was a registered Democrat when he lived in New Jersey. "My opponents have been trying to trash me over this on blogs. Strom Thurmond, Condoleezza Rice, Ronald Reagan all were Democrats before they became Republicans."
Hafter, 34, said he thought he had registered before the 2008 presidential election by filling out a form when he and a client visited the office of Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas.
Somehow that form was not submitted to the Clark County Election Department and he was prevented from voting, Hafter added.
That he might not be registered then did become a concern for him when he decided to run for attorney general.
"I am sorry but I was running a business," Hafter said. "I have four kids. Politics wasn't for me at that time. But then I saw what (Attorney General Catherine Cortez) Masto was doing."
Masto, a Democrat, didn't immediately return calls seeking comment on Hafter's political switch, but Travis Barrick, a Republican who will face Hafter in the June 8 primary, said he has known for some time that Hafter is a johnny-come-lately Republican but never tried to make it a issue.
"Welcome to the Republican Party," said Barrick, who pointed out that he has been a Republican since 1955. "I hope he sticks around. He has said he has evolved to being a Republican. I hope if he is elected that he won't evolve back to be a Democrat."
Joel Hansen, the Independent American Party candidate for attorney general, said if Hafter wins the primary, then voters "will have a choice between a liberal Democrat (Masto), a fake Republican (Hafter) and a true conservative (Hansen)."
He questioned how Hafter can be expected to oversee legal matters for the state when he hasn't even bothered to vote in Nevada.
But Hafter said his record as a lawyer shows he lives by conservative Republican principles.
He won a lawsuit against the state Board of Medical Examiners over its violating the open meeting law and led efforts to ensure medical assistants would be permitted to give injections and Nevadans could use a popular diet drug.
In recent weeks, he accused Masto of violating the attorney-client privilege rule by releasing a news statement on why she would not agree to Gov. Jim Gibbons' request to file a federal lawsuit over the new national health care reform law.
Hafter volunteered to file the lawsuit for Nevada for free, but Gibbons gave that task to Las Vegas lawyer Mark Hutchison.
Instead of investigating Masto, Hafter said the State Bar of Nevada is investigating a grievance filed against him on allegations he made false statements about the attorney general. He filed a lawsuit against the State Bar, contending he only exercised his free-speech rights.
Hafter also accused Secretary of State Ross Miller and state Treasurer Kate Marshall, both Democrats, of violating state laws by using their office telephone numbers as their campaign contact numbers.
"The notion I am not a Republican is preposterous," he said.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at email@example.com or 775-687-3901.