IAP Takes Las Vegas, NV by Storm!

Sunday, June 23, 2002

A major minor party: A record-breaking 50 candidates this year are carrying the IAP's message of God and guns (good), and government and gays (bad).

Cover Story

A major minor party: A record-breaking 50 candidates this year are carrying the IAP's message of God and guns (good), and government and gays (bad).

By Jimmy Boegle

"We have the organization, ballot position, the platform, the history, the dedication, the leadership and the foundation for political victory. We have faith in Jesus Christ and the power of truth. We need 50 Nevada Citizens who will stand up as Independent American Candidates to promote AMERICANISM."

-Daniel Hansen, "The Independent American Challenge for Election 2002"

Christopher Hansen and his son Nicholas were at the Home Depot getting materials for a construction project when Christopher's cell phone rang. It was one of his nephews, and he had some horrible news: Daniel Hansen, Christopher's older brother, was dead following a rollover accident on Interstate 80.

"We fell on the floor and wept and screamed for 15 minutes," said Christopher, breaking into tears. "I have never experienced anything that was so horrible as the loss of my brother."

The Jan. 22 accident that killed Daniel, the 60-year-old founder of Nevada's Independent American Party, could not have happened at a more ironic time. He was killed (as was a good Samaritan, Keith Strande, 19, of Billings, Mont., who was hit by a skidding semi after he stopped to help Daniel's wife) on the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision to legalize abortion. That was a day that Daniel saw as one of the country's darkest.

It happened as Daniel was returning from the national Independent American Party convention, where he had been a speaker. It happened as Nevada's party was at its peak, with nearly 14,000 registered voters - more than all the other third parties combined. It happened as the IAP was riding high from the 2000 success of Ballot Question 2, the so-called "Protection of Marriage" Initiative - a measure that received 70 percent of the vote after making the ballot in large part due to the efforts of IAP members. And finally, it happened after Daniel had publicly stated a goal for the IAP to get 50 candidates on the ballot in 2000 - a number more than twice the party's previous high, and a number that would have made the IAP one of the most notable third parties in Nevada history.

Daniel's death left many wondering about the party's future. Mesquite Mayor Chuck Horne, who is one of the party's only office-holders, said at the time that Daniel's death was a huge blow to the party.

"There's no question about it: He was the spark plug that put in the greatest effort and passion," Horne said. "You can't take that kind of energy away and not have it affect the party."

Eric Herzik, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, even said then that Daniel's death could threaten the IAP's existence.

"When somebody so central suddenly disappears, it's difficult for the party to go on," Herzik said. "It's a huge blow. It's very hard for a third party to lose a central figure and keep any momentum."

But instead of killing the momentum, Daniel's death had the opposite effect. Instead of falling apart, the party rallied around Hansen's dream. The Hansen family - which has always dominated the IAP - and other party loyalists rallied; and when the filing deadline came, somehow - IAP members call it a miracle - there were 50 candidates.

"One thing we knew was that we were going to go out there for my brother," Christopher said.

Let's step back for a minute and put the IAP's 50-candidate slate in perspective. Herzik, who now says he's surprised that the IAP responded so well following Daniel's death, says only one third party in Nevada history has made more of a ruckus than the IAP, and that happened a century ago.

In 1892, at a time when mining interests were the dominant power in the state, a number of state leaders - desiring the increased use of silver in coins - formed the Silver Party. What happened that year was stunning - the new party went from nonexistence to dominating the state Legislature, capitalizing on the fact that the desired free coinage of silver was the preeminent issue in the state. For 16 years, the Silver Party was the state's dominant party before the issue's importance subsided. The party ended up merging with the Democrats.

But, according to Herzik, the differences in the situations of the Silver Party and the IAP are numerous. The biggest: The Silver Party was close to the mainstream, while the IAP, according to most observers, is not.

"[The IAP] doesn't have much of a reach into the general electorate," Herzik said. "What they've done is impressive - they're doing everything right - but I don't think they're a big threat."

The IAP platform makes the Republicans look like left-wing liberals. It includes planks calling for:

-- The United States to withdraw from the United Nations and other organizations (such as NATO) that are threatening the country's sovereignty

-- The repeal of the "debt money system" currently being run by the Federal Reserve, which the IAP claims effectively creates money by creating debt

-- A restoration of Christian principles in government, which would oppose such things as homosexuality

-- The abolishment of the income tax and the Internal Revenue Service

-- School choice and the abolishment of large, godless organizations such as the Clark County School District

-- The state taking back federally owned lands, and the removal of such organizations as the Bureau of Land Management; this, the IAP claims, would protect Yucca Mountain from becoming a nuclear waste dump

-- The protection of the right to bear arms

-- The illegalization of euthanasia and abortion

-- The abolishment of the 14th Amendment, which the IAP claims was not legally ratified

-- The abolishment of attempts to create a national ID card, including the Social Security number.

And this is just a start. Some members of the IAP go even further; Christopher Hansen, who is running for secretary of state, made the news recently by saying that he and about 10 other IAP candidates will refuse to file campaign contribution and financial disclosure statements with the Secretary of State's Office and the Ethics Commission. These forms violate the state and federal constitutions, Christopher says.

"If I want to report who's giving me money, I can put that in the newspaper," he said. "The government doesn't have to do it."

If you talk to any gung-ho member of the IAP, there's a recurring theme: The government is broken, and it needs to be massively overhauled. The states need to be given more control, and Christian principles need to be a part of our nation's structure. Christianity leads to freedom; godlessness leads to destruction. Beliefs and actions that go against the IAP's version of Christian principles - like homosexuality, abortion, etc. - need to be stopped. Otherwise, the political system will self-destruct.

"Show me a country that has religious freedom that's not based on Christianity," Christopher said. "Christianity allows for other people to practice their religions."

Not surprisingly, the IAP platform alarms a number of people.

"They're the local representation of something we see happening around the world, and that's right-wing groups playing into people's fears," said Paul Brown, the Southern Nevada director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. "... Those that have anger and hatred, this is the party for them."

However, the IAP disagrees with such assessments. They say that people like Herzik and Brown are wrong - that the party's beliefs are more mainstream than they are radical.

Joel Hansen, a local attorney and a Clark County district attorney candidate who is Christopher's brother, referred to a number of issues on which the IAP represents widely held views. He pointed out that 70 percent of voters approved Question 2, an effort spearheaded by the IAP. He accurately stated that the IAP is the only statewide party currently with a plank opposing abortion, which represents the beliefs of about a third of Nevadans. Many Nevadans believe in the right to bear arms, and many Nevadans would love to see the income tax lowered or eliminated, he said. Finally, Yucca Mountain would not be an issue right now if Nevada functioned as a sovereign U.S. state, and demanded control of federal lands.

"These are not radical positions," Hansen said.

While Joel Hansen has some points, it's undeniable that some of the IAP's beliefs and rhetoric aren't exactly mainstream. And some of the IAP's rhetoric can be over-the-top. Daniel Hansen was well-known for protesting gay pride events and calling homosexuals things like "Sodomites"; whenever a Reno journalist needed a quick, inflammatory anti-gay quote, he was the source. Christopher Hansen likes wearing T-shirts that say things like "Jail for Judges," boasts that he does not file his income tax forms, and frequently antagonizes his opponents on the Las Vegas Review-Journal's online forum. Heck, even the IAP logo is a minuteman holding a rifle.

But that begs the question: If the party is so radical, why is it now among the ranks of Nevada's most prominent third parties ever?

Herzik said the IAP's surge reflects its persistence and strong organizational skills over the last decade.

"They are a group of individuals who realize that they have to get out there with the party's name," Herzik said. "This is what most third parties fail to do. ... You know you're going to lose, but it's a way to get your message out and say, 'Hey, we're a real party.'"

Herzik points to the Reform Party as an example of a third party that failed to tap into its supporters to get candidates. He also said that the Green Party - in its second election year with Nevada ballot access - made a mistake by not getting more candidates on the ballot this year. Six Greens are running for office in Nevada this year.

Lane Startin, the Green's candidate for the District 1 congressional seat and the de facto Southern Nevada party spokesman, said he didn't recruit just anybody to run for office as a Green. He wanted only candidates who would campaign hard for their offices, and that he hopes to triple the number of Green candidates every election cycle.

"My feeling is that many of these [IAP] candidates are candidates just to be on the ballot," Startin said. "Lots of them are just taking up space."

Looking at some of the IAP candidates, Startin may have a point. The IAP boasts both the youngest and oldest candidates on the ballot. Ruth Hansen, the 86-year-old mother of Christopher, Joel and District 2 congressional candidate Janine, is running for Washoe County public administrator. And in Clark County, 17-year-old Anna Kjorvestad is running for the same position (she can run because she'll be 18 before Election Day). While the IAP claims both candidates are running to win, the jury's still out.

IAP leaders concede that they're longshots in all their races this year.

"To be really honest, we haven't expected to win any elections until this point," said Jess Howe, the IAP party chairman and its candidate for Clark County assessor.

But this year, Howe said, the party has hope. However, there are some problems.

"Here's the No. 1 stumbling block: We don't have any money," Howe said. "We need an angel with lots of money."

Despite the lack of funds, Howe said the party could pick up some offices in smaller districts. And Herzik, even though he doubts the IAP will win anything, notes that the party is being smart by pursuing races such as constable, public administrator and recorder - low-profile offices that people don't know much about.

"That's a very good strategy," Herzik said.

And if there's one thing the IAP has shown it's good at, that is strategy. The 50 candidates was just one of the party's goals. The party hopes to get more financing and wins; Christopher Hansen said he'd like to see the party have 100 candidates in four years.

"We want to become a major party," he said.

While people like Herzik, Brown and Startin say that will never happen, IAP members remain enthusiastic.

"We're excited about our opportunities," said Janine Hansen. "We're very well received by the public. A lot of people realize there are no differences between the Republicans and Democrats."

The major party aspirations, for now, are just talk. The IAP is just enjoying the ride and the attention the party has been getting.

On a nearly weekly basis, the IAP and its members have found themselves in the news lately because of one issue or another. In late May, the Nevada Committee for Full Statehood - headed by Janine Hansen with a number of IAP candidates as members - were involved in a fray in Palomino Valley, where the Bureau of Land Management seized and subsequently sold 150 head of cattle that belonged to Western Shoshones. The BLM claimed the cattle were grazing there illegally; the Shoshones and the Committee claimed the Shoshones own the land under the Ruby Valley Treaty of 1863.

Next, Christopher Hansen made the papers with the aforementioned challenge of the Secretary of State and the Ethics Commission when he announced that he and about 10 candidates refused to file their contribution and financial disclosure forms. His stance: It's unconstitutional - and not anybody's business - to make candidates disclose what the income sources of all members of their household are.

"I sent in their fascist form filed [sic] out only with I plead the 5th on every question attached to a letter that says the United States Supreme Court said I do not have to answer their questions," Christopher Hansen said in a news release earlier this month. "I will never comply to this unconstitutional regulation. I have tried for years to get the Commission to act against me and they refuse. Well I am not going away and I am not giving them any information. If I do not have to comply why should anybody comply?"

Finally, the IAP was back in the news last week when Christopher's son, Nicholas, was booted off the ballot by Clark District Court Judge Sally Loehrer. Nicholas was running for Henderson constable, and the incumbent, Earl T. Mitchell, challenged his candidacy because Nicholas is only 20. Mitchell claimed that a statute says a peace officer must be 21 to be "appointed" to the position. Nicholas - and his attorneys, uncle Joel and cousin Greg - countered that Nicholas isn't being appointed, but elected, and that the laws very clearly say a constable candidate must only be 18.

Much to the Hansens' surprise, Loehrer disqualified Nicholas from the ballot, but not over the age issue. Basing her ruling on another statute - one that defines the duties of a constable - she said that he couldn't run because he's not a peace officer.

The ruling stunned many observers, because a whole bunch of people running for constable aren't peace officers (even though only Nicholas was officially removed from the ballot at the time of her ruling). To put it nicely, Loehrer's ruling doesn't seem to make much sense to a lot of observers.

"This means that you have to be a constable to be a constable," said Greg Hansen.

The Hansens immediately said they would appeal the matter to the Nevada Supreme Court. And while surprised by the ruling, they were far from upset by it.

"We enjoy the challenge, and we enjoy the coverage it gives us," Greg said.

Christopher Hansen was downright giddy following the loss, which led to prominent coverage in both Las Vegas dailies.

"We lost today. That is wonderful news," he said.

The attention, the getting of the government's goat, the challenge - those are things the IAP thrives on. And it's something that shows that even though the IAP may never reach its goal of becoming a major party, it won't go away, either, as long as Daniel Hansen's brothers, sisters and followers hang around, battling to keep his dream alive.

"Dan had an old saying," Christopher said. "It went something like, 'Whatever direction we fire in, we're shooting at the enemy, because we're surrounded.' Isn't it great?"

Jimmy Boegle is CityLife's news editor. He can be reached at 871-6780 ext. 344 or jimmyb@lvpress.com.

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