In Age of Trump, Evangelicals Back Self-Styled Top U.S. Pimp

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Dennis Hof, owner of the Moonlite BunnyRanch legal brothel and recent winner of the Republican primary election for Nevada State Assembly District 36, sits in the parlor of the brothel in Mound House, Nevada
Dennis Hof, owner of the Moonlite BunnyRanch legal brothel and recent winner of the Republican primary election for Nevada State Assembly District 36, sits in the parlor of the brothel in Mound House, Nevada, U.S. June 16, 2018. Picture taken June 16, 2018. REUTERS/Steve Marcus
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By Tim Reid
PAHRUMP, Nev. (Reuters)

He styles himself as America’s best-known pimp, a strip-club owner who runs multiple brothels and looks set to win a seat as a Republican in the Nevada legislature with the blessing of many conservative Christian voters

Meet Dennis Hof, whose political rise reflects fundamental changes in electoral norms that have roiled the Republican Party and upended American politics during the era of President Donald Trump.

“This really is the Trump movement,” Hof, 71, told Reuters in an interview at Moonlite BunnyRanch, his brothel near Carson City in northern Nevada that was featured on the HBO reality television series “Cathouse.”

 

Sonja Bandolik, the "Madam on the Menu," poses in her room at the Love Ranch, a legal brothel owned by Dennis Hof, who recently won the Republican primary election for Nevada State Assembly District 36, in Crystal, Nevada
Sonja Bandolik, the “Madam on the Menu,” poses in her room at the Love Ranch, a legal brothel owned by Dennis Hof, who recently won the Republican primary election for Nevada State Assembly District 36, in Crystal, Nevada, U.S. June 15, 2018. Picture taken June 15, 2018. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

 

“People will set aside for a moment their moral beliefs, their religious beliefs, to get somebody that is honest in office,” he said. “Trump is the trailblazer, he is the Christopher Columbus of honest politics.”

When news broke that Hof had won the nominating contest for a state Assembly seat on June 12, evangelical pastor Victor Fuentes said he closed his eyes and prayed.

 

A campaign sign for Dennis Hof, a legal brothel owner who recently won the Republican primary election for Nevada State Assembly District 36, is shown along a road in Pahrump, Nevada
A campaign sign for Dennis Hof, a legal brothel owner who recently won the Republican primary election for Nevada State Assembly District 36, is shown along a road in Pahrump, Nevada, U.S. June 15, 2018. Picture taken June 15, 2018. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

 

He did not ask God to deliver Nevada and the Republican Party from Hof, the thrice-divorced author of “The Art of the Pimp” who campaigned as the “Trump of Pahrump.” Although Christian groups have long rallied against the state’s legal brothel industry, Fuentes was willing to overlook Hof’s history as a champion of the flesh trade and gave thanks for his victory.

“People want to know how an evangelical can support a self-proclaimed pimp,” Fuentes said in an interview at his home in Pahrump, an unincorporated town of 36,000 people that is the largest community in the sprawling, rural district where Hof is favored to win in November’s general election.

 

Legal brothel owner Dennis Hof, who recently won the Republican primary election for Nevada State Assembly District 36, talks with political advisor Chuck Muth during a birthday party for his campaign manager in Mound House, Nevada
Legal brothel owner Dennis Hof (second right), who recently won the Republican primary election for Nevada State Assembly District 36, talks with political advisor Chuck Muth (R) during a birthday party for his campaign manager in Mound House, Nevada, U.S. June 16, 2018. Picture taken June 16, 2018. Legal prostitute Chantel Baby is at left. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

 

He said the reason was simple. “We have politicians, they might speak good words, not sleep with prostitutes, be a good neighbor. But by their decisions, they have evil in their heart. Dennis Hof is not like that.”

The pastor said he felt Hof would protect religious rights, among other things.

 

Dennis Hof supporters Victor Fuentes, pastor of the Ministerio Roca Solida church, and his wife Annette pose outside their home in Pahrump, Nevada
Dennis Hof supporters Victor Fuentes, pastor of the Ministerio Roca Solida church, and his wife Annette pose outside their home in Pahrump, Nevada, U.S. June 15, 2018. Picture taken June 15, 2018. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

 

In Hof’s Republican-leaning district, seven evangelicals said they voted for him because they believed that he, who like Trump is a wealthy businessman and political outsider, would also clean up politics and not be beholden to special-interest groups and their money.

“I’m kind of rich, I’m kind of famous, and I’m surrounded by hot chicks. I don’t give a damn what anybody says about me,” Hof said.

The source of Hof’s wealth – he owns a strip club and five legal brothels – did not deter his supporters.

 

A bondage and discipline room is shown at the Love Ranch, a legal brothel owned by Dennis Hof, who recently won the Republican primary election for Nevada State Assembly District 36, in Crystal, Nevada
A bondage and discipline room is shown at the Love Ranch, a legal brothel owned by Dennis Hof, who recently won the Republican primary election for Nevada State Assembly District 36, in Crystal, Nevada, U.S. June 15, 2018. Picture taken June 15, 2018. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

 

Nor did the allegations by several women that Hof sexually abused them. Hof denied the accusations, including a former sex worker’s claim that he raped and choked her several years ago, and the voters interviewed by Reuters dismissed them as lies.

Hof was reluctant to discuss his own Christian faith.

 

 

“I don’t share my beliefs with the public,” he said. “I don’t feel the need to go to church on a regular basis.”

 

LOSING FAITH IN ESTABLISHMENT

For decades, evangelical voters have been a pillar of the Republican Party in the United States, using grassroots muscle to turn out votes and engage in political battles over hot-button social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

But in recent years, many conservative Christians have lost trust in establishment Republicans, whom they accuse of not fighting for values they feel are under attack in modern America.

 

Keep reading…

 

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