Election 2020

Brothel Owner Runs for Nevada State Assembly, Compares Himself to Trump

Brothel ownwer Dennis Hof in Oklahoma City on June 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Dennis Hof, an ordained minister, owner of the famous Nevada brothel Love Ranch, one of those featured in the HBO series “Cathouse,” and author of the book “The Art of the Pimp: A Love Story,” doesn’t mince words when discussing GOP Nevada Assemblyman James Oscarson, his opponent in the Nevada GOP June primary.

“Having been in the legal brothel business for more than 24 years, I know a ‘working girl’ when I see one,” Hof said, referring to his esteemed opponent.

And, just in case voters weren’t entirely sure what Hof thinks of Oscarson, the 71-year-old author, minister and brothel owner added, “Assemblyman James Oscarson is the most shameless political (w-word rhyming with ‘more’) in Nevada.”

Oscarson has not been afraid to impugn his opponent’s motivation, either.

“Remember he had Hookers for Hillary?” Oscarson said. “Then he was a Libertarian. Now he’s a Republican.”

These two do have a history. The incumbent assemblyman is correct. Hof ran against Oscarson in 2016 as a Libertarian and lost. Now he’s back, running against Oscarson in 2018 as a Republican.

Hof said their clash turned personal when Nye County officials suspended the Love Ranch’s brothel license in February because of a claim that Hof failed to obtain county planning department permission before modifying several mobile homes on the property.

“What you’ve got here is the worst corruption,” Hof told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “It’s just lie after lie. But they’re going to give my license back by 5 p.m. today.”

Hof said county authorities charged into the Love Ranch at 2:30 a.m. on Feb. 25 and actually pulled the brothel license off a wall.

“It’s political retribution because I had the nerve to challenge the establishment,” Hof said. “They’re out of hand. It’s the same stuff they’re doing to Donald Trump. They’re using government power to put me out of business and discredit me.”

County officials restored the Love Ranch’s license March 23, but Hof was still not happy.

He accused Oscarson and several county commissioners of being nothing but “puppets of the water-rights people.”

“That statement is just pure bullshit,” said Oscarson of Hof’s take on water politics. “I don’t know how else to put it.”

Last December, just 12 days before Christmas, Hof put up four billboards reminding voters that police arrested Oscarson 20 years ago for fighting at a hockey game.

Oscarson admitted he pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge in “an incident I regret,” but also tweeted, “I find it beyond remarkable that a pimp, who makes his living by exploiting women … is trying to call me out on a disorderly conduct charge at a hockey game 20 years ago.”

Oscarson also said in the tweet that Hof had “redefined disgusting in politics.”

Charges of past criminal history have gone both ways in this campaign. Hoff accused the 2016 Oscarson campaign of saying there was a traffic-violation warrant out for Hof’s arrest. Turned out the story was only half right. There was a warrant out for a guy named “Dennis Hof” but he lived in a different state and was 25 years younger than the owner of Love Ranch.

Hof said he was inspired by President Trump’s 2016 campaign and told the Tribune News Service he and the president are kindred spirits.

“We’re both famous – and infamous. We’re both high profile. We’re both celebrities. We’re both successful businessmen. We both have reality television shows. We both have written books. We’re both rich and we can’t be bought,” Hof said. “There’s a lot of similarities. And we’re doing it for the right reasons.”

Michael Green, an associate professor of history at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, said despite running as a Republican and trying to act as much like Trump as possible, Hof is still the underdog in the race.

It was just one election ago that Hof was a Libertarian. But now, two years later, not only is Hof calling himself a Republican but he told a Lincoln Day Dinner audience he was a “RINO hunter.”

Green said Hof’s decision to switch his political affiliation from Libertarian to the GOP in the district that includes the conservative-libertarian friendly counties of Nye and Lincoln can’t hurt.

“I’m sure the vast majority of Republicans would claim, with some justification, they are Libertarian-Republicans or, at the very least, don’t like government,” Green said. “But there is also tribal loyalty that, in the end, a Republican will punch the button for his or her party. Having the R next to his name probably makes Hof look more like a viable candidate.”

After all, Green said, the 2016 presidential campaign showed that anything is possible.

“The loudest sound you heard after the election,” Green said, “was the sound of crystal balls crashing to the ground.”

But just as Trump has discovered, Hof may find that winning an election only fuels the rage of his opponents, sparking new battles.

Nye County Commissioner Lorinda Wichman, a longtime opponent of Hoe’s, said she would like to work on placing a question on the November 2018 ballot asking whether all brothels should be closed county-wide.

“I’d like to see what the voters think about keeping prostitution in Nye County,” Wichman said.