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.”
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.