Nevada Speaker-designate steps down amid controversy

Ira Hansen
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.
As recently as Saturday, Republican Ira Hansen, the Speaker-designate in Nevada's state Assembly, sounded a defiant note. The public learned last week about inflammatory remarks he'd made about African Americans, women, Latinos, and gay people, but the GOP leader suggested he'd persevere.
Hansen told supporters, "I have gotten an overwhelming amount of emails and phone calls to my cell and business phone asking me to not give up because in doing so the politics of character assassination win."
A day later, however, that posture had become unsustainable. The Las Vegas Sun reported yesterday:

After facing a firestorm of criticism for racist comments he made publicly, incoming Assembly Speaker Ira Hansen announced that he would not lead the chamber during the upcoming legislative session. After announcing to his legislative colleagues that he was stepping down, Hansen issued a news release today saying the controversy surrounding him had been an "orchestrated attack."

"Politics of personal destruction win," he wrote in a message to Nevada lawmakers. "I need to step down. I hope that you all know that the Ira that you have known through these years and weeks is the real Ira and not what the media is painting me to be."
It's not yet clear whether Hansen intends to resign from the Nevada Assembly or whether he'll remain in office in a lesser role.
Either way, the far-right lawmaker seems eager to present himself as a victim. In a press release, Hansen blasted the "deliberate character assassination and the politics of personal destruction" for his difficulties. The Republican added, "The powers that be are planning a massive, more than $1 billion, tax increase and I stood in the way as speaker."
Apparently, everyone is to blame for Hansen's problems except Hansen.
While Nevada Republicans scramble to pick up the pieces and elect a new Assembly leader, the developments continue to have a broader significance. Before Hansen quit, Nia-Malika Henderson noted 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 now that dynamic has changed. Sandoval quickly distanced himself from Hansen's incendiary language, which added to the pressure on the lawmaker to step down from the leadership post. With Hansen out, the governor is very likely feeling a little better about governing over the next two years, which matters as Sandoval considers a possible Senate campaign against Harry Reid (D) in 2016.