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Republican shift inspired long shot candidate to run for US Senate

A long-shot Nevada candidate for U.S. Senate said his decision to run had nothing to do with the outcome of the 2020 election.

It had to do with a shift in his own party.

“I saw the Republican Party changing in a way that I didn’t like,” said Bill Hockstedler, a health care executive and military veteran.

Hockstedler, 59, is seeking the Republican nomination to run against Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. The general election will garner national attention because it could swing control of the evenly divided U.S. Senate.

Hockstedler bristles at members of the Republican Party promoting unfounded claims of widespread fraud in the election. Touting those claims to support former President Donald Trump, whom Hockstedler called an autocrat who wants to be king, have split the Republican Party apart, he said.

“And I have to believe … that there are people in this country that are part of the Republican Party who still subscribe to the fact that we have values,” he said. “We have American values that drive what we do every day in this country. Not values from the extremism of the left and the right.”

He said the country needs to return to a state of decorum and civility.

Hockstedler, a Pahrump resident, moved to Nevada in 2019. After serving in the U.S. Air Force, he joined the health care industry, and now serves as an executive in a joint venture between the Mayo Clinic and Ambient Clinical Analytics.

Priorities

If elected, he said he wants to focus on the economy.

“Without a strong economy, in this world, we lose our advantages to advance all the other things that we want to do for society,“ he said.

Hockstedler said Nevada needs to improve its education system and diversify its economy by attracting industries such as technology.

He suggested the possibility of educational partnerships with businesses “where we can actually fund the education so that people aren’t saddled with a lot of student debt, but they could learn the skills necessary to thrive in the high-tech area that we’re going to go into,” he said.

Hockstedler said Congress needs to write cleaner bills and have more defined timelines for funding things like agriculture programs and research projects.

Steep uphill climb

His chances of being competitive in the June primary are slim as a first-time candidate who is at an enormous fundraising disadvantage.

Former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt has name recognition, plenty of money on hand and the benefit of endorsements from prominent Republicans like Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Another rival, Sam Brown, an Army veteran, has risen from obscurity and proven he is capable of raising money, too.

Laxalt has nearly $1.7 million on hand and Brown has about $730,000.

Hockstedler has nearly $11,000 on hand, slightly more than pageant winner Sharelle Mendenhall, who is also seeking the nomination. Aside from one donation, Hockstedler’s campaign is entirely self-funded, federal campaign finance records show.

To build support in the primary, he said wants to reach voters who might be less inclined to be vocal or attend political events. And if he can’t raise money for advertising, he said he would pay for it himself.

Hockstedler was critical of Brown, accusing him of using his personal tragedy to generate sympathy. Brown was severely injured when his Humvee hit a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

He also criticized the former attorney general, saying Laxalt, grandson of former Nevada governor and U.S. Sen. Paul Laxalt, relied on his name and not hard work during his failed 2018 gubernatorial campaign.

Brown’s campaign declined to comment.

Laxalt campaign spokesman John Burke released a statement in response to Hockstedler’s comments: “Adam Laxalt is a conservative warrior with a record of fighting for Nevada families and standing up for the principles that have made America great. That’s why President Donald Trump, Governor Ron DeSantis, and countless conservatives across Nevada and America are supporting his candidacy for U.S. Senate.”

Hockstedler would not commit to supporting the Republican nominee in the U.S. Senate race.

“I’d have to tell you more at the time because, again, my values go towards supporting what’s right for this country, not necessarily supporting somebody because they have an ‘R’ behind their name,” he said.

Contact Blake Apgar at bapgar@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5298. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter.

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