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Hansens of Idaho determined to keep House seat in family

When the United States Supreme Court on March 3 let stand former Idaho Congressman George Hansen's conviction for falsifying congressional financial reports, the era of the Hansen name in Idaho politics did not end. Mr. Hansen's wife, Connie, is running for the office her husband held for 14 years.

After quitting her job with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 15, she toured Idaho to announce her candidacy. Last week she was back in Washington, drumming up financial support.

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Mrs. Hansen is banking on the name recognition her husband collected during his tenure in Congress, and is betting Idaho voters won't hold her husband's felony conviction against her.

But one Republican opponent in the primary has said that Idahoans are tired of the Hansens' legal problems and will not support her.

Meanwhile, Mr. Hansen is petitioning for a retrial and continuing to argue that he was singled out for prosecution in retribution for his one-man crusade against the Internal Revenue Service and other federal bureaucracies.

The Republican primary in Idaho's southern district was already crowded when Mrs. Hansen cast her hat into the ring. Five other Republicans are vying for the nomination, at least two of whom are former strong supporters of her husband who hoped to win the support of his stalwart block of voters.

The former congressman's faithful constituents could be a big help. In the 1984 election, he lost to Democrat Richard Stallings by only 170 votes, despite his conviction in federal court.

That kind of faith is what Mrs. Hansen hopes to build on. Contacted in Washington last week, Mr. Hansen said the fact that his wife is the only woman in the race will also help.

The former congressman said he expects his wife will inherit his loyal ``Hansen Hard Corps'' that backed him through thick and thin.

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``The basic organization is still there,'' he said. ``She was very much instrumental in helping to form that.''

Mrs. Hansen could not be reached for comment. But her entry into the race was greeted coolly by GOP regulars who fear she may walk away with her husband's block of voters, thereby handing the GOP nomination to a minor candidate.

Though they publicly encourage Mrs. Hansen to run if she wants to, Republican legislators in Idaho say privately that they are concerned that if she wins the primary, the Democrats will consolidate control of a seat that has been Republican for all but three terms since 1939.

Democratic Party chairman Mel Morgan predicted that Mrs. Hansen will win the Republican primary, only to be handily beaten by Congressman Stallings.

No matter who wins the primary, Stallings will have to run in a district that Idaho Republicans proudly say is one of the most conservative in the country.

Idaho Republican chairman Dave Pearson would not pick a front-runner in the primary, but said last week the party will choose one in a mid-April straw poll of Republican precinct leaders.

Mr. Hansen said his wife has little to fear from a straw poll, even though a poll of Republicans in the Idaho legislature indicated little support for her.

Mr. Hansen was elected at least once after failing to gather 20 percent of the votes at a party convention. He went on to win the general election.

Mrs. Hansen served in Washington as her husband's chief of staff and top campaign aide. She also served a term on the city council in Pocatello, the Hansens' hometown.

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