Nevada brothel owner who unexpectedly died still wins Assembly seat

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Steve Marcus

Dennis Hof smiles during an interview at his Love Ranch legal brothel in Crystal, Nev. Tuesday, June 26, 2018.

Tue, Nov 6, 2018 (11:40 p.m.)

A Nevada brothel owner who died unexpectedly last month won the Assembly District 36 seat, which will now be filled by another Republican appointed by the Nye County Commission.

Dennis Hof bested Democratic opponent Lesia Romanov with 62 percent of the vote.

Hof campaign manager Chuck Muth, who was watching the results at the Bunny Ranch bar in Mound House, said the win is bittersweet, as he wished Hof could be around to celebrate with him.

“I have never been in a campaign like this with the stuff they threw at Dennis — it was everything and the kitchen sink,” Muth said. “Unsubstantiated accusations of sexual assault came out … then all the Republicans that came out that weren’t going to support him. It was a brutal campaign, and we wish he was here to enjoy it, but we’re going to do shots and try to enjoy it for him.”

Hof was found dead Oct. 16 at his Love Ranch South brothel just outside of Pahrump two days after celebrating his 72nd birthday. But, by law, his name remained on the ballot.

Once the results are certified, an advertisement will be posted online, in newspapers and at county buildings seeking people interested in filling the vacancy.

Candidates must reside in District 36, which includes Nye County and portions of Clark and Lincoln counties, and be members of the Republican Party.

The commissions from the three counties will each nominate a candidate and then meet together to name an appointee. But by law, each county's vote is proportional to its population within the district, meaning Nye County, with 64 percent, will make the final decision.

Hof’s camp hopes for Nye County Republican Central Committee Chairman Joe Burdzinski to be appointed to the seat, as the two were close friends and shared political views.

Muth is worried officials could appoint commission members who had contentious relationships with Hof, springing from issues related to regulating Hof’s Love Ranch South brothel in Crystal.

Muth does not want James Oscarson, who Hof bested in the primary, to be appointed.

“If they try to appoint Oscarson, it’s just going to continue the divide in that district. It’s going to be all-out war.”

Romanov wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Although rare, instances of candidates winning an election after their death are not unprecedented.

Notably in 2002, Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan won a U.S. Senate race after dying in a plane crash three weeks before the election. His wife, Jean Carnahan, filled the seat.

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