Hansen, 1997

Janine Hansen, the bête noire of local liberals, and some conservatives, has departed western Nevada for eastern Nevada.

The indefatigable campaigner for Eagle Forum, the American Independent Party, and Mothers Against the Draft left her native Sparks and is now living in Ryndon, a small settlement in Elko County where wagon trail ruts from the California Trail are reportedly still visible.

Hansen left Sparks to care for her 89-year-old mother.

“We have two homes,” Hansen wrote in an e-mail message. “My son and daughter-in-law are in one, and we will be in the other when it’s finished in about a month. I love it here! No traffic, clean air, beautiful sunsets. Two of my four grandchildren are here. I went horseback riding right out my son’s back door.”

Hansen is the most visible member of a large family of political activists, many of whom live in Sparks.

While the temptation is to call Hansen a conservative, she is not neatly categorized. She has often been critical of Republican leaders for lack of fidelity to conservative principles, and party labels are not a big deal to her (she once ran for office on the Democratic line).

Hansen was a leader of the 1970s campaign against the Equal Rights Amendment and the Nevada ballot measure that gave voter approval to legal abortion, and she supported the ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage in Nevada. (She was successful in the first and third, unsuccessful in the second.)

Hansen has opposed the federal government on land issues and supported the Shoshone tribe’s Dann sisters in a dispute with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Hansen has been very active in a campaign against the U.S. PATRIOT Act. She is now national chair of Mothers Against the Draft (“Group organizes against a new draft,” Feb. 17, 2005) and opposed the war in Iraq.

“Iraq is about oil and money,” she said in 2004. “We are sending our sons and daughters to a war that will end in devastation.”

Photo By Dennis Myers Janine Hansen, right, and Lucille Lusk looked over their supporting material just before a hearing at the 1997 Nevada Legislature.

Hansen has lobbied at the Nevada Legislature for many years, on everything from domestic abuse to teen suicide to abortion. Two years ago, when Assemblymember David Brown, a Clark County Republican, introduced an anti-terrorism measure that was dubbed the “little PATRIOT act,” reporter Erin Neff used Hansen’s activism to analyze it.

Neff recalled Hansen’s participation in a protest at a public auction of a rancher’s federally seized cattle. “Clearly [Hansen’s] actions helped ‘disrupt, affect or influence the conduct or policy of a government entity by intimidation or coercion.’ That could make her a terrorist under an amendment to Assembly Bill 99 introduced by Assemblyman David Brown,” Neff wrote. Hansen was one of those lobbying against the measure, which failed to pass.

Hansen has run many times as the candidate of the American Independent Party founded by George Wallace (in Nevada the party is called Independent American), most recently as the AIP candidate for the U.S. House in 2004. In 1980, she scared the daylights out of Don Mello, then the assemblymember from Sparks, by switching parties and coming within a hair’s breadth of beating him in the Democratic Party primary election.

For a time, she operated a political consulting firm, Decent Exposure, which catered to candidates of the Hansen mold.

In May 2004, Hansen and her son Zachary Triggs were arrested, handcuffed and jailed by Reno police on a complaint by the Regional Transportation Commission after they circulated initiative and referendum petitions on public property at the downtown municipal bus depot (“Pulling grassroots,” May 19, 2004).

Nevada District Judge Kenneth Cory later extended the allowable time for circulation of the petitions because of the conduct of public agencies in interfering with signature gathering.

Hansen’s former Sparks office on Rock Boulevard is now a sewing machine repair and sales shop.

“I was in that office for 17 years,” she said. “We had an anniversary party in August. I’m continuing all my activities and will be setting up a regular office when my house is finished.”

Former Democratic state Sen. Margie Foote of Sparks was taken by surprise at the news that Hansen has departed. She said she first got to know Hansen and her family during the ERA battles. “[In] few if any other issues did we see eye to eye. I could admire their commitment and hard work.”

Hansen may feel well represented in Elko County. Its assemblymember, John Carpenter, supported the shovel protest at Jarbidge, where federal efforts to prevent rebuilding of a local road became a conservative cause celebre. Its senator is Dean Rhodes, who sponsored the “sagebrush rebellion,” a movement to claim state title to federally managed land.

Her new hometown of Ryndon, once a railroad work camp, last month lost one of its most prominent residents, former Nevada assemblymember James Wood. Wood founded V&T Bus Lines (now Gray Line) and served in the legislature for six nonconsecutive terms, plus a partial term by appointment. He was Republican floor leader and chaired the influential Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

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Dennis Myers

Dennis Myers was the news editor of the Reno News & Review. He was a journalist for more than four decades. In 1987-88 he was chief deputy secretary of state of Nevada. He was coauthor of Uniquely...