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
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
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
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
"One thing we knew was that
we were going to go out there for my brother,"
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,
"[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
The IAP platform makes the
Republicans look like left-wing liberals. It includes planks
-- 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
-- A restoration of Christian
principles in government, which would oppose such things as
-- 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
-- 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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
"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 firstname.lastname@example.org.