The campaign for state Assembly District 36 between two-term incumbent James Oscarson and his opponent, Libertarian candidate Dennis Hof has been the most contentious one in the county, if not in Nevada.
Oscarson narrowly defeated his Primary Election opponent, Tina Trenner, by 133 votes overall, despite outspending her by a wide amount. Trenner did win the vote in Nye County, receiving 1,586 votes (49.98 percent) to Oscarson’s 1,348 votes (42.48 percent).
The win that the 59-year-old Oscarson eked out in the primary has Hof believing the residents of District 36 are ready for a change.
“I think that the public has shown they want him out because he voted to raise taxes,” Hof said. “He lied to us, he told Ed Goedhart, he told me, he told everybody, ‘I won’t raise taxes.’ Then he voted for the largest tax increase in Nevada history, the commerce tax.”
Oscarson explained that the increase Hof noted, Senate Bill 483, Gov. Brian Sandoval’s $1.5 billion of extended and new taxes during the last legislative session was mainly made to benefit the school system in the state.
“That money helped us send more dollars directly to our classrooms to help our students” said Oscarson, who works in community relations for Desert View Hospital. “I know, we can’t just throw money at education to fix the problem. That’s why we put in place strict accountability measures to ensure the new funds were working.”
Oscarson did vote against Senate Bill 1, which passed Oct. 14 after a week-long special session. The bill, which passed and was signed by Gov. Sandoval on Oct. 17, calls for an increase in Clark County’s hotel room tax to help finance a $1.9 billion, 65,000-seat domed stadium, clearing a path for the relocation of the National Football League’s Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas. In addition to a $750 million public investment, the bill also includes a separate hotel room tax increase to help fund $1.4 billion in improvements to the Las Vegas Convention Center.
With various issues plaguing the area, Oscarson believes that the water issue is the problem that needs most addressing.
“Water is our single biggest issue in Nye County,” Oscarson said. “The state overallocated the 162 Basin many years ago and that problem cannot and should not be balanced on the backs of domestic well owners. Currently, the state water engineer has the right to regulate by priority and many domestic wells would be significantly impacted.
“The Legislative Commission on Water, which I co-chaired, has submitted legislation to limit the state engineer’s authority with regard to domestic wells.”
The 70-year-old Hof agreed that water issues were at the forefront of District 36, but didn’t like where he perceived his opponent sat on the matter.
“I’m really going to go hard at water,” Hof said. “James is voting with the governor (Brian Sandoval) and wants to control our wells. He wants to limit the water that I can take out of my own well. That’s not going to happen in my district. My constituents will not put up with that; James will.
“He sold out on the taxes, he sold out on the water; he can’t tell the truth.”
Guns are also a hot topic for Hof. He is against Question 1, which is asking voters if the state should expand background checks for gun purchases to most private sales and gun shows, stating that it affects the proprietors of guns more than anyone.
“I’m afraid,” he said. “If (Oscarson) is lying about taxes, is he lying about my guns? I’m concerned about it as a business owner and NRA member.”
Oscarson tried to quiet those concerns, stating that he is the NRA’s endorsed candidate and explained his track record shows he is in support of gun owners and that he also opposes Question 1.
“A critical issue is the constant attack on our Second Amendment rights,” he said. “My voting record is very clear. I have consistently sponsored or co-sponsored pro-gun legislation since being elected to office. I voted for removing, and passed, gun registration statutes (blue cards) in Nevada and increased the doctrine allowing you to protect yourself.”
Oscarson and Hof also have divergent views on Question 2, which would legalize recreational marijuana in Nevada.
“With 40 million tourists visiting Nevada each year, I am just not confident that we will be able to manage all of the downsides and social costs that will accompany legalized, recreational use,” Oscarson said. “What’s more, our medicinal marijuana industry is just getting started. I would like to give it a chance to prove that it can work responsibly, before we open the door to recreational use.” He added that the cons outweigh the pros.
Hof said he supports legalization with some reservations.
“To keep marijuana illegal is to continue fueling the sale of marijuana by violent gangs and drug cartels,” Hof said. “Without endorsing its use, free adults in what used to be the freest state in the nation should be free to use marijuana in the privacy of their own homes without fear of arrest or fine.”
The two candidates have gobbled up an array of billboards on the busy State Route 160 attacking one another, including one of Oscarson’s that had to be taken down due to an apparent copyright claim by the image’s photographer.
Hof is well-known for owning several legal brothels throughout the state, including two in Nye County, and Oscarson said he believes that area residents that take to the polls will have that on their minds come Nov. 8.
“My opponent is a self-proclaimed pimp, who wants to allow 18-year-olds into the brothels to work and play,” he said. “So voters will have to ask themselves, do they want Dennis Hof representing themselves and their children?”
Oscarson was first elected to the state Assembly in 2012.
District 36 covers much of Nye County, rural northern Clark County and part of Lincoln County.
Contact reporter Mick Akers at email@example.com. On Twitter: @mickakers