(Riley Snyder | Nevada Independent) – A medical doctor, a registered nurse and a brothel owner.
If it sounds like the setup for a joke, it’s not — those are the backgrounds of the three Republican candidates (Assemblyman James Oscarson, brothel owner Dennis Hof and Dr. Joseph Bradley) who faced off Wednesday night in a rare televised debate for a rural state Assembly seat.
Though typically a Republican stronghold, the primary fight over Assembly District 36 — which includes Pahrump and many other small rural communities in Southern Nevada — has drawn increased attention because of the candidacy of Hof, an outspoken brothel owner who has attacked the incumbent’s alleged lack of conservative credentials.
Oscaron defeated Hof — who ran as a Libertarian Party candidate — by a 61 to 39 percent margin in 2016. But the three-term assemblyman faces another tough challenge after Hof changed party registration and is now challenging Oscarson in the Republican primary, where the total vote count will likely be much lower than in the general election and where Oscarson narrowly won in 2016.
The debate itself, which was hosted on Pahrump’s KPVM-TV and paid for by Oscarson’s campaign, featured constant back-and-forths between the two candidates, trading barbs over Oscarson’s support for a 2015 business revenue tax and Hof’s business practices and recent party registration switch.
One particularly contentious moment came after a question on supporting health-care access to veterans, when Oscarson criticized Hof’s practice of giving military members discounts.
“I find it quite disturbing when my opponent at the end of the table offers to our military a discount at his brothels for their service,” he said. “That’s disgusting.”
Hof called the statement a “rude remark”, saying the discount went for all of his businesses and indicated his support for veterans.
“Of course they deserve it. They deserve anything else they want,” he said. “If I owned a Dairy Queen I’d be giving them ice cream cones.”
But the candidates largely agreed on various issues including addressing opioid addiction, support for gun rights and increasing access to health care in rural communities. The three also united in opposition to state water engineer Jason King’s decision requiring domestic well owners in Nye County to first purchase water rights before drilling new wells.
Although all three candidates mentioned support for education, Bradley put forward several specific suggestions, including making every school in Nevada a therapist practice site.
“The students that are falling behind — maybe they have abusive households. Maybe they’re being bullied. Maybe they’re at a developmental stage where they just don’t feel like they fit in,” he said. “There could be a slew of things. How much assistance would it be to have direct contact from a Master’s level therapist to address this issue?”