June 13, 2018 - 5:41 pm
Updated June 13, 2018 - 7:36 pm
Donning an American flag T-shirt, brothel kingpin Dennis Hof huddled around a computer at a Pahrump office off state Route 160 with dozens of supporters Tuesday night, eagerly awaiting the first round of election results.
The room erupted in cheers.
In rural Nye County, Hof had snagged a sizeable lead over incumbent GOP Assemblyman James Oscarson — and the gap between the men grew all night. Hof, a larger-than-life TV personality and self-proclaimed pimp, won the Republican nomination for Nevada’s Assembly District 36, unseating a ranking member of the Legislature.
Hof supporters liken his win to giving the middle finger to the establishment.
“Hey, Dennis,” a supporter shouted Tuesday. “What’s next? You gonna run for governor? U.S. Senate?”
The man dubbed by President Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone as “The Trump of Pahrump” defied the odds and won by 432 votes. And he’s not ruling out a run for higher office as Stone and others have urged him to do.
“It’s very possible,” Hof said in an interview Wednesday. “When I got into the brothel business in 1992, I said I would buy one brothel and that’s it. One brothel turned into seven. I’m always moving onward and upward. Who knows? The same thing could happen here.”
Nearly 60 miles away, Eric Roberts, the executive director of the Assembly Republican Caucus, had a sinking feeling when voting results from Nye County poured in.
“Hof’s lead wasn’t a big overall net number, but percentage-wise it was massive,” Roberts said. “We were done at that point. There was no way we were going to be able to win. When those returns came in from Nye County, reality set in for me.”
Nye County is the majority of the rural Assembly District 36, but it also touches parts of Lincoln and Clark counties. A third candidate in the race, Bradley Joseph, cut into Oscarson’s chances of winning re-election by netting 1,411 votes. Hof will face Democrat Lesia Romanov in November, but the GOP has a decided advantage: Nearly 8,000 more Republicans than Democrats are registered in the district.
“The people made their decision as to what they want,” Oscarson said Wednesday. “That’s what the process is.”
Oscarson declined further comment. Roberts said he’s “deeply disappointed” that a self-proclaimed pimp won and worries that Hof’s election will turn into a media circus.
“It was a very Trump-like campaign and he’s a Trump-like personality,” Roberts said.
Other top Nevada Republicans also expressed unhappiness with Hof’s win. Gov. Brian Sandoval and U.S. Sen. Dean Heller both said through a representative Wednesday that they do not support Hof. Neither would provide specific reasons why.
Hof’s path to victory was paved with personal attacks and mudslinging. Oscarson accused Hof of being a womanizer and supporting Democrat Hillary Clinton. Hof hit Oscarson on gun rights, water rights and taxes.
Oscarson voted to support Sandoval’s commerce tax, which Hof has vowed to repeal. Hof called Oscarson a Republican in Name Only and dubbed himself the RINO hunter. And Hof’s deep pockets gave him the cushion to buy full-page newspaper ads and put up a dozen billboards.
Hof said Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald called Tuesday to say, “Dennis, you told me you’d be the RINO hunter. You bagged the big one.”
But Hof in April faced allegations of sexual assault from two former employees. Roberts said some female members of the Assembly caucus have expressed concerns about working with Hof in Carson City.
Hof maintained his innocence and said Oscarson’s camp fabricated the accusations.
“I feel like I was in a UFC cage fight for the last six months,” Hof said. “Every time I turned around, they threw something at me.”
Hof said he plans to sell his Nye County businesses — including the famed Love Ranch brothel — to focus on serving in the Legislature. His campaign adviser Chuck Muth acknowledged that Hof generates media buzz everywhere he goes but contended that the attention will work out for Hof like it did for Trump.
“The fact that the media will seek him out and he’s not afraid to talk to them is a good thing,” Muth said.