Nevada Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, speaks on the Assembly floor during the second day of a special session at the Nevada Legislature, on Sept. 11, 2014, in Carson City, Nev.
Cathleen Allison/AP

Nevada Speaker’s racially charged rhetoric sparks uproar

Following up on yesterday’s report, Republican Ira Hansen, the Speaker-designate in Nevada’s state Assembly, garnered national attention this week after the public learned he wrote a right-wing column for many years, featuring controversial remarks about African Americans, women, Latinos, and gay people. The controversy is clearly growing.
 
Late yesterday, newly re-elected Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) issued a statement criticizing his own party’s legislative leader.
“I wholeheartedly disagree with Assemblyman Hansen’s past public statements on race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. This abhorrent kind of speech is unacceptable. He will have to answer questions regarding his previous statements himself.”
The governor did not call for state lawmakers to choose a new Assembly Speaker, though the calls for such a change appear likely.
 
Indeed, Jeffrey Blanck, branch president of the Reno-Sparks NAACP, responded, “We understand that the caucus has many newly elected members who may not be as familiar with Mr. Hansen’s past as we are. They need to know he has beaten the drum of intolerance for decades.” Blanck urged lawmakers to choose a “less divisive” Speaker.
 
For his part, Hansen said in a statement, “I am deeply sorry that comments I have made in the past have offended many Nevadans. It is unfortunate that these comments, made almost 20 years ago as a newspaper columnist and talk radio host, have been taken out of context and are being portrayed as intentionally hurtful and disrespectful. These comments were meant to be purposely provocative in various political, cultural and religious views. I have the utmost respect for all people without regard to race, gender, religious or political beliefs.”
 
Given his published record, Hansen’s claims about universal respect will probably be difficult for many Nevadans to believe.
 
Making matters slightly worse, another Nevada Republican lawmaker said last year he’d allow slavery if that’s what his constituents wanted – and Speaker-designate Hansen recently put him in charge of a powerful legislative committee.
 
Nia-Malika Henderson, meanwhile, helped highlight the larger context, particularly as this relates to Brian Sandoval.
Republicans backed Hansen over a more moderate pick. And given the more moderate and pro-abortion rights Sandoval has often clashed with more conservative elements of his party, it seems quite possible Hansen could be a thorn in his side for the next few years – just as he the governor is primed to build more of a national profile. […]
 
For Sandoval, who has until this point had a Democratic-controlled legislature, it means that his next years in office will be about engaging with a more conservative wing of his party anxious to do things he might disagree with or could be unpopular.
And if Sandoval intends to run against Sen. Harry Reid (D) in 2016, this could be a consequential problem.
 
Jon Ralston talked to some Nevada GOP insiders, one of whom said, “If we learned one thing [from Hansen’s election], it’s one thing we already knew: This caucus does not like being told what to do by the governor.”
 
Don’t be surprised if this gets uglier.
 

Brian Sandoval, Nevada and Racism

Nevada Speaker's racially charged rhetoric sparks uproar