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Tanner Ainge is a Utah County investment adviser with little experience in politics. But with an assist from his famous father, he's launching a Republican bid for Rep. Jason Chaffetz's soon-to-be-vacated 3rd Congressional District seat.
Boston Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge encouraged his son to campaign for the special election race last week on Twitter.
"With vacancy created in the House, I'm encouraging my son Tanner to run," he wrote. "He has the integrity, edu, exp, to rep UT in DC. #AingeforCongress?"
Tanner Ainge had posted about a potential run on LinkedIn, while he mulled over the decision. By Monday morning, the 33-year-old Alpine resident filed his paperwork and changed his social media profiles to say "candidate for U.S. House of Representatives."
Ainge did not returns requests from The Salt Lake Tribune for comment Monday. His campaign website, aingeforcongress.com, included only a subscription form and a place to donate under the slogan "Utah is rising."
Though Ainge has worked for a handful of consulting firms including managing his own company, Ainge Advisory, as well as directing a nonprofit, African Equity Fund his political experience is limited to a one-year stint volunteering in the campaign finance arm of Mitt Romney's 2008 presidential bid, according to his online profile.
David Magleby, a professor of political science at Brigham Young University where Danny Ainge launched his basketball career and Tanner Ainge graduated in international studies says as a candidate, Ainge will likely benefit from name recognition.
"His father's jersey hangs in the Marriott Center, and it's a name that's going to be widely known," Magleby said.
The Ainge family name, Magleby added, is like adding a Romney to the ballot: It's an advantage "being the son of a highly recognized and highly regarded local favorite."
Danny Ainge is a Utah celebrity for his game-winning shot that sent BYU to the Elite Eight in the NCAA championships. "Who can forget that basket-to-basket drive at the end of the Notre Dame game in 1981?" Magleby said.
Another of Danny Ainge's sons, Austin, also played basketball at BYU and is now the director of player personnel for the Boston Celtics. Tanner Ainge, though, seems to have followed a more academic path. He studied Chinese at Cornell University and got his law degree at Northwestern University.
Danny Ainge said on Twitter he "can't think of anyone more competent and trustworthy" than Tanner to run for office.
Tanner Ainge joins a competitive field vying for Chaffetz's seat, which the congressman will vacate June 30. Three other Republicans have already filed in a condensed election timeline: state Sens. Deidre Henderson and Margaret Dayton and state Rep. Brad Daw. Two Democrats have also submitted their paperwork: progressive candidate Ben Frank and activist Carl Ingwell.
Democrat Kathryn Allen and Republican Damian Kidd have also announced their intentions to run. Provo Mayor John Curtis and former state Rep. Chris Herrod have continued to weigh jumping into the race.
Magleby said like Ainge, Curtis and the state lawmakers have some name recognition, though Curtis is more "visible" as the mayor of a major city in the district, which stretches from Salt Lake County to San Juan County.
The professor suggests the race, with such a crowded field, could easily shift to focus on the negative. For first-time candidates Ainge, Allen, Frank and Ingwell it can be difficult to prepare for "how hard-hitting campaigns like this can be," he said. Contenders will look for anything about their competition that "they can try to attack," Magleby added.
Still, in a post Monday evening Ainge seemed optimistic. He mentioned his platforms while joking that the focus seems to be on basketball: "Campaign is about economic growth, innovation, fiscal responsibility ... but Twitter [is] only talking about Gordon Hayward."
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