Connie Hansen dies at 79, surrounded by husband, George, family

Connie Hansen, the wife of colorful former Idaho GOP Congressman George Hansen, died Tuesday at an assisted living facility in Pocatello, where she had lived for two years.

Hansen was an accomplished public figure in her own right, serving on the Pocatello City Council, as a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development official in the Reagan administration, and a congressional staffer. In 2000, she was one of Idaho’s four electors who cast votes for George W. Bush in the Electoral College.

Congressman Hansen, 82, was moth to the flame of controversy; Connie was his rock.

The Hansens in 1986

The Hansens in 1986

In 1986, she ran for Congress after her husband’s narrow 1984 defeat, but lost in the GOP primary.

“She was always the glue that kept her family together during some very difficult times,” says her obituary in the Idaho State Journal. “During these years of adversity, she was always there for her husband and all of her family.”

She is survived by five children, 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. The Hansen’s youngest child is William Hansen, deputy secretary of education in the George W. Bush administration.  Now a businessman, Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna credited William Hansen for influence his 2011 “Students Come First” laws, since repealed.

George Hansen served two House terms in the 1960s but lost the 1968 U.S. Senate race to Democratic Sen. Frank Church. He also lost Senate races in 1962 and 1972. But he returned to the House in 1974, serving 10 more headline-grabbing years. He wrote a book about the IRS, “To Harass Our People,” and went to Iran in 1979 during the Iranian hostage crisis, attempting to negotiate a deal and infuriating the Carter administration.

His 1984 loss to Democrat Richard Stallings was by just 170 votes of 202,000 cast, and came close on the heels of his conviction for filing false congressional financial disclosure forms. Hansen served 15 months in federal prison and complained of being subjected to  “diesel therapy” by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons for the exhausting cross-country bus ride that took him from Idaho to Virginia for incarceration. His conviction was later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, which found the Ethics in Government Act was flawed and didn’t apply to Hansen’s conduct.

Hansen’s other-worldly sales skills got him into more trouble in the 1990s, when he was convicted of bank fraud and sentenced to four years in prison. Some who lost large sums of money in his check-kiting scheme remained loyal, prompting U.S. District Judge Ed Lodge to say, “I’ve never seen that kind of blind allegiance.”

I got to know the Hansens while George was fighting with the Bureau of Prisons. We had long conversations from prison where he detailed the small indignities of incarceration at the Petersburg Federal Correctional Institution, including talk of awful food and dirty razor blades.

After his release, when he became a lobbyist, I went to Washington, D.C., to write a profile. He’s a huge man, about 6-6 and 300 pounds, who wore me to the nub as I attempted to keep up with him during a long day on Capitol Hill.

Mrs. Hansen, who would often field my phone calls, was always kind, helpful and maintained an upbeat attitude no matter how much grief her husband’s advocacy might have caused.

When our daughter, Challis, was born in 1992, the Hansens sent a beautiful hand-made card.

I offer my condolences to the congressman and his family. Godspeed, Connie Hansen.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Highland 4th Ward Chapel, 2925 Michelle St. in Pocatello. A viewing will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at Cornelison Funeral Home, 431 N. 15th Ave., and one hour prior to Saturday’s services. Internment will follow at the Cache Clawson Cemetery in Tetonia. Condolences may be sent to the family on-line at www.cornelisonfh.com.

 

 

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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