Speaker designate Ira Hansen withdrawing from position

CARSON CITY — Assembly Speaker-designate Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, said Sunday he is withdrawing from the leadership position after newspaper columns that he wrote with controversial remarks for the Sparks Daily Tribune generated widespread criticism.

Hansen said he would “gladly fight this out if it was only about me, but I cannot allow the many fine people elected to office to also be impacted.”

In a statement, he said the attacks were not about his past comments but instead aimed at removing him as speaker because he would be an obstacle to any tax increase that may be proposed by Gov. Brian Sandoval and other lawmakers in the 2015 legislative session.

The 25-member GOP caucus, which came to the majority in the Assembly in the Nov. 4 election for the first time since 1985, will have to pick a new speaker.

Assemblyman Paul Anderson, R-Las Vegas, was named second in command as majority leader after the GOP caucus meeting earlier this month.

The caucus has set a meeting for tonight to select its new leader.

“For the greater good of the state of Nevada and the cause I support it is necessary for me to withdraw as speaker designee,” Hansen said in a brief statement. “The tens of thousands of people who both read my columns and listened to my radio shows through two decades in the media know this has been a carefully orchestrated attack to remove a conservative Republican from a major leadership role in state government.

“The deliberate character assassination and the politics of personal destruction have totally distorted my views and record,” he said. “Ultimately, this whole attack has very little to do with my views. The powers that be are planning a massive, more than one billion dollar, tax increase, and I stood in the way as speaker.

“I have already served two terms as an assemblyman without any of these vicious attacks. It was only when I had risen to leadership that this smear campaign occurred. That is the real reason for this and it is vital the public understands that,” Hansen said.

The Reno-Sparks NAACP last week asked the Nevada State Assembly Republican Caucus to reconsider its election of Hansen as speaker because of what the group called a long history of making questionable comments.

The pressure intensified after reporter Dennis Myers, in a story in the Reno News Review, combed through columns written by Hansen for the Sparks Tribune starting in 1994 and published several statements attributed to the lawmaker.

Among the comments unearthed in the report were these comments about Martin Luther King Jr.

Myers said that Hansen wrote: “The relationship of Negroes and Democrats is truly a master-slave relationship, with the benevolent master knowing what’s best for his simple minded darkies. For American blacks, being denied choice and forced to attend the failing and inferior government school system is a form of involuntary servitude. Let’s call it what it truly is—educational slavery.”

The comments generated widespread condemnation, including from Sandoval and many legislative leaders, but the Assembly GOP caucus issued no statement on the controversy.