What happens if a dead man wins an election? The latest twist in a year of high strangeness — the death of a pimp-slash-state legislature candidate in Nevada — means we’ll likely soon find out.
Dennis Hof, a notorious brothel owner and television star, died Tuesday. The 72-year-old was found unresponsive at one of his brothels, the Love Ranch in Crystal, following a night of partying with friends. Police said no foul play was involved and that Hof had likely died in his sleep.
Hof was also the Republican nominee for a Nevada State Assembly seat, ousting the current Republican incumbent in a primary earlier this year.
It’s a bizarre twist to a bizarre campaign. Hof styled himself in the image of President Trump, telling The Las Vegas Sun earlier this year, “Am I riding the Trump train? Hell yes I am. He blazed the trail for me. I would have never won the primary without what Donald Trump did. He carved a new dimension into the political realm, and I’m one of the beneficiaries of it.”
Hof’s campaign slogan was “Made Nevada Nevada Again,” and he called himself the “Trump of Pahrump.” (Pahrump, Nevada is his hometown.)
Despite his death, the campaign isn’t actually over. Hof will still be on the ballot on Election Day, and should he win, it will be up to the commissions of the three counties the district covers — Nye, Clark, and Lincoln counties — to pick a replacement.
Normally, it would be up to one county to pick a deceased candidate’s replacement, but the fact that the district in which Hof was running encompasses several makes the process more complicated, John Koenig, Nye County Commission Chairman explained in an interview with ThinkProgress Thursday.
Each county commission will first sit down together and pick a name in a public forum, Koenig said. Three county chairmen will then meet and vote. The weight of their vote will be determined by the percentage of the district’s population that reside in their respective counties.
Koenig said Thursday that Nye, his home county, has the largest share of the population and will thus have the largest vote. State law requires that if a Republican — in this case, Hof — wins the seat, the county or counties must appoint a Republican.
Though they have no required timeline, Koenig said he feels it’s urgent to pick a replacement if Hof wins on Election Day.
“If it was up to me, it would happen the day after the election,” Koenig said. “I’m prepared. We’re ready to go.”
The current incumbent, James Oscarson, won the majority of the votes in Lincoln and Clark county, while Hof won in Nye. Paul Donohue, the chairman of the Lincoln County Commission, speculated in an interview with The Las Vegas Review-Journal that perhaps Lincoln and Clark would push Oscarson as their choice to replace Hof.
Koenig would not comment on whether he had a preference to replace Hof.
The district where Hof was running is heavily Republican, with a two-to-one GOP voter advantage.
“I feel very comfortable predicting that he is still going to win the election,” Hof’s campaign manager, Chuck Muth, told Reuters Thursday. “There are a lot of Republicans who were uncomfortable voting for Dennis because of the nature of his business and they now know that he is not the one who will be serving. They will feel much more comfortable casting the ballot for him knowing there will be another Republican to replace him.”
But Koenig told the Review-Journal that he hasn’t counted out Democrat Lesia Romanov.
“At least with her, you know what you’re going to get,” Koenig told the paper. “If you vote with him, you don’t know who you’re going to get. Be careful what you wish for.”
Donohue and Clark County commission chairman Steve Sisolak, currently the Democratic nominee for governor, had not responded to requests for comment at press time.