Brothel owner who won primary shunned by Nevada GOP brass
RENO, Nev. (AP) — Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof said Wednesday the “establishment got crushed” when he knocked off an incumbent Republican in a state legislative primary.
But now the flamboyant pimp who starred on the HBO adult reality series “Cathouse,” is being shunned by that some of that GOP establishment as he prepares to run for an Assembly seat in November.
U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, considered the most vulnerable Republican up for re-election in the Senate this year, and Attorney General Adam Laxalt, the GOP’s gubernatorial nominee, are among those refusing to back Hof.
Laxalt “does not support Dennis Hof and will not be supporting him,” Laxalt’s campaign manager Kristin Davison said in an email to AP. Incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, who is being forced out by term limits in November, and Wes Duncan, the GOP nominee for Laxalt’s job, also are turning their backs on Hof.
But several high-profile conservatives didn’t shy away from endorsing the man who calls himself “America’s Pimp” in the GOP primary.
“We need more successful, independent businessmen in the Nevada Legislature,” said Michelle Fiore, a former GOP state legislator and big gun rights defender. “I’m supporting Dennis Hof 1,000 percent.”
Nevada GOP Chairman Michael McDonald stopped short of an endorsement but wrote a public letter attacking his primary opponent, Assemblyman James Oscarson, as a “Never Trumper” after he said Oscarson spread lies that Hof had endorsed Hillary Clinton.
“We welcome fiscal conservatives such as Mr. Hof who want to join our party. We need more of them,” McDonald wrote.
Hof believes grassroots support will fuel his campaign and others will come around after he defeated Oscarson in a sprawling rural district in southern Nevada where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than a 3-to-1 margin.
Hof said Wednesday that “everybody just wants to focus on ‘brothels’ and ‘pimps.’”
“Guess what? The voters of District 36 didn’t care!” he said in a statement.
“They wanted someone to represent them who would keep their word,” Hof said. He claimed voters liked that he was not in “the pockets of the Carson City special interests,” and wouldn’t raise their taxes. He said he would fight for their gun and water rights and supports President Donald Trump’s efforts “to make America great again.”
Eric Herzik, chairman of the political science department at the University of Nevada, Reno, is among the longtime observers of Nevada elections who think Hof will win.
“This is the classic ‘only-in-Nevada story’,” Herzik told the AP. “I don’t see that district flipping parties. You’re going to have some disgruntled Republicans, but they are sure not going to vote Democratic.”
Former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman won numerous elections despite being identified “basically as a mob lawyer,” Herzik said. He said Hof’s campaign may be a “bad case of optics in a traditional sense. But that doesn’t seem to be that relevant in Nevada.”
Hof spent $234,121 on the primary thanks largely to the $200,000 he loaned to his campaign. His Democratic opponent, Lesia Romanov, raised only $1,405, including $1,000 from the Nevada state teacher’s union.
“At this point, most people are a little surprised that he won,” she told the AP on Wednesday. “My campaign will be focused on ethics and education.”
AP reporter Michelle Price contributed to this report from Las Vegas.