Dead Pimp Cruises to Victory in Nevada State Election
In life, Dennis Hof claimed many titles: “America’s pimp” and “the P.T. Barnum of Booty,” based on his notoriety as an outspoken brothel owner in Nevada. He called himself the “Trump of Pahrump,” nodding to his political style and the town he called home.
In death, Mr. Hof earned a new title: Nevada state assemblyman.
On Tuesday, in one of the more unusual developments of the midterm elections, Nevada voters resoundingly elected Mr. Hof, a Republican, to represent the state’s 36th Assembly District just weeks after he was found dead in a brothel he owned in Crystal, Nev., at the age of 72.
His election means that county commissioners from his district will pick a replacement, who must be a Republican and live there. That will most likely play out in the coming weeks after the election results are confirmed on Friday, said Arnold Knightly, a spokesman for Nye County, the main county in Mr. Hof’s district.
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Mr. Hof’s victory seemed inevitable in the heavily conservative region. President Trump carried Nye County with nearly 68 percent of the vote.
Mr. Hof’s candidacy was not derailed by accusations of sexual assault and rape and a state investigation into allegations against him.
Nor was his campaign thwarted by attacks on his support for prostitution: Critics said that the state’s brothels fostered abuse and exploitation, and that Mr. Hof’s candidacy was detrimental to women.
Certainly, death was no obstacle, as thousands of people marched past polling site signs that read “NOTICE OF DEATH OF CANDIDATE” on their way to vote for Mr. Hof. (In fact, death has not stopped a number of candidates from winning office.)
“He was clearly an outsider,” said Chuck Muth, Mr. Hof’s campaign manager, who had urged voters to cast ballots for Mr. Hof despite his death on Oct. 16. “He was a disrupter.”
Mr. Muth said it would have been a shock if a Democrat had won the district. Mr. Hof had run an anti-tax increase, pro-gun rights campaign that also focused on the region’s water scarcity.
As of Wednesday afternoon, he had received more than 63 percent of the vote.
Mr. Hof had previously run for State Assembly as a libertarian in 2016. It was his first run at public office, Mr. Muth said, and he lost to the incumbent, James Oscarson. In June, Mr. Hof defeated Mr. Oscarson in the Republican primary.
Mr. Hof was born in Phoenix on Oct. 14, 1946, according to his website. His first job was delivering newspapers, and he later pumped gas. He went on to open several gas stations of his own, first in Arizona and then in Nevada, before entering the brothel business.
When he died, Mr. Hof had gained a national reputation as an outspoken supporter of brothels in Nevada, the only state in the country where they are legal in some counties. Nye County said in a report this year that in 2016 and 2017, brothels generated more than $392,000 for the county, offset by costs of just over $31,000.
In a 2012 interview with Channel 4 News in Britain, Mr. Hof said that if prostitution were illegal, it would be run by criminals instead of being safe and regulated in a legal sphere. Mr. Hof was the star of the HBO television series “Cathouse,” which focused on the Moonlite BunnyRanch, his brothel east of Carson City.
In 2015, the former N.B.A. player Lamar Odom was hospitalized after he was found unconscious at one of Mr. Hof’s brothels.
In April, two women told The Las Vegas Review-Journal that Mr. Hof had sexually assaulted them. One of them, Jennifer O’Kane, said that he put his hands around her throat one night in 2011, told her she “was his” and raped her, and that she was “raped and battered daily” by Mr. Hof.
Mr. Hof denied the claims, telling The Review-Journal that they were “muckraking in the political cesspool that keeps so many good people from running for office.”
In an interview on Wednesday, Ms. O’Kane, 48, said she did not see Mr. Hof’s victory as an endorsement of the man. She said many voters told her that while they would not have voted for Mr. Hof if he were alive, his death brought them to the polls.
“Nevada and that area is a red state, it’s a Republican state,” Ms. O’Kane said. “No Democrat was going to win, and that’s just politics.”
She added that she was angry the news media had picked up on her allegations “because of the election and because he was running.”
“There’s been no real help for the rape victims, and no understanding of how many he has raped,” she said.
Mr. Muth said he thought the confirmation of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, despite the accusations by women that he sexually assaulted them decades earlier, helped voters look past Ms. O’Kane’s accusations.
“I think maybe that Kavanaugh thing helped play in his favor,” Mr. Muth said.
Erik Herzig, the chairman of the political science department at the University of Nevada, Reno, said that by dying, Mr. Hof “solved a problem” for conservatives who might have been opposed to his profession. But Dr. Herzig said that in this rural part of Nevada, many voters probably wouldn’t have minded.
“If he would have run, say, in the City of Reno, no, he wouldn’t have won,” Dr. Herzig said. “But in a rural district that’s incredibly conservative and has prostitution legalized in the county, it’s almost like, ‘So what’s the big deal?’”
Prosecutors had said they did not bring charges against Mr. Hof because the statute of limitations had expired. The Nevada Department of Public Safety said Wednesday that it was investigating sexual assault allegations, but declined to provide more details.
The Clark County coroner and medical examiner’s office said Wednesday that its analysis of Mr. Hof’s cause of death was still pending.
The night before Mr. Hof was found dead, he had hosted a campaign rally in Pahrump. The rally was attended by the pornographic film actor Ron Jeremy and Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., who was pardoned by Mr. Trump last year.
Mr. Hof’s Democratic opponent, Lesia Romanov, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Follow Mihir Zaveri on Twitter: @MihirZaveri.
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