What would Dennis Hof want?
That’s the question a group of passionate Nye County residents posed Wednesday before the Nye County Commission appointed Gregory Hafen II to replace Hof in the Assembly District 36 seat he won posthumously. And while no one can speak for the dead brothel owner, his supporters said Hof would have wanted longtime Republican leader Joseph Burdzinski to fill his shoes.
Hof blanketed Pahrump with campaign billboards, newspaper ads and spent months campaigning in rural Nye County, which he won by a landslide even though he died three weeks before the Nov. 6 election.
“We all voted for Dennis,” resident Jackie Freeman told the commission during its meeting Wednesday. “Dennis was an everyday person who was there everywhere we went. He listened to all of us. Joe is the right person for the job. He has no secret agenda. He is at every event like Dennis was. He was always there.”
But the commission voted 4-1 to nominate Hafen, who was also selected this week by the commissions of Lincoln and Clark counties, which are in the district. Commissioner Donna Cox cast the dissenting vote.
Commission chairman John Koenig said he was threatened if he voted for Hafen.
“I don’t take well to getting threatened,” he said before voting for Hafen.
Hafen, the general manager of Pahrump Utility Company Inc., called for a moment of silence to honor the late President George H.W. Bush before he addressed lawmakers Wednesday. The Nevada native said he will work across political aisles to get things done.
“I feel I can work with anyone and everyone to help resolve the problems,” Hafen told commissioners. “I’m a get-her-done kind of person.”
The three commissions are scheduled to meet Friday to finalize Hafen’s appointment, unless an emergency injunction is granted to prevent the vote.
A Nye County resident is suing for a delay until new commissioners are seated, but a judge this week refused to hold a hearing before Dec. 19, which will be after the appointment is made.
Burdzinski touted 43 years of political experience, including serving as chair of the Nye County Republican Central Committee, and an endorsement from Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald. McDonald also supported Hof.
“Republicans are the minority in the Assembly, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get things done,” Burdzinski said Wednesday. “I’ve always been able to work with others.”
Hof appealed to rural Nevada voters by vowing to never raise taxes, to protect their guns and water rights. Hafen said it would be “difficult” to convince him to raise taxes, but added that “we need to pay for tomorrow’s ills by addressing them today.”
Hafen was one of 19 people who applied to replace Hof, and six candidates spoke before the commission Wednesday, including Joseph Bradley, a Republican who garnered 20 percent of the vote in June.
Some speakers criticized the 35-year-old Hafen for being too young or lacking political experience.
But Hafen took it with a grain of salt, citing a quote from Winston Churchill: “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”