By Robin Hebrock Pahrump Valley Times – December 7, 2018 – 7:00 am
While there may have been more than a dozen candidates to put their name forward for appointment to Dennis Hof’s Nevada Assembly District 36 seat, it was clear from the start of the Nye County Commission’s Dec. 5 meeting that in the public’s eye, there were only two real contenders.
Republican Pahrump residents Greg Hafen II and Joe Burdzinski easily commanded the majority of attention on Wednesday as the commissioners were poised to make their nomination.
During the highly intense meeting, members of the public were pitted against each other in a verbal battle as they voiced their support for one or the other, often with harsh criticisms and obviously elevated, passionate emotion.
Burdzinski is the current chairman of the Nye County Central Committee and he worked closely with Hof throughout Hof’s 2018 bid for the Assembly.
Burdzinski touted a long list of experience with political and community activities, including time spent as a national delegate for the Republican Party and participation in multiple county and state conventions. He also came with endorsements, including a major supporter in Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald.
Hafen is a born and raised Nevadan whose family is well-known throughout Pahrump, having had a large part in the development of the valley. Currently the general manager for the Hafen-family-owned Pahrump Utility Company, Hafen is an active member of several boards in the community, both for the town and various entities in Pahrump.
As for his experience at the political level, Hafen noted that he assisted in drafting Assembly Bill 355, which passed in the 2009 Legislative Session, and has experience working with a wide array of regulatory agencies.
In the end, it was Hafen who secured the nomination with a 4-1 vote. Nye County Commissioners John Koenig, Dan Schinhofen, Butch Borasky and Lorinda Wichman all voted in favor of Hafen with only Donna Cox against.
Although the appointment will not be official until all three county commissions within District 36 hold their joint meeting today, Dec. 7, it appears safe to assume that the same result will occur this morning.
Each of the governing bodies for Nye, Clark and Lincoln counties selected Hafen as their nominee and he is presumably going to head to Carson City in February 2019 to represent the people of Assembly District 36.
Hafen’s nomination was met with a mixed reaction in the community.
There was much grumbling in the audience on Dec. 5 and it started long before any vote had taken place. In fact, many came with pre-meeting predictions that Hafen would be selected and remarks that the choice was already made.
“Backdoor” and “under-the-table dealings” were words bandied about as those opposed to Hafen lamented the situation. Several also noted that they felt their votes had been stolen because they thought Hafen was as polar opposite of Hof as possible and was never a supporter of the posthumously elected assemblyman.
Concerns about his stance on controlling water resources and increasing taxes, in particular, were aired as people questioned the wisdom of appointing Hafen.
The meeting was not entirely one-sided however and Hafen had several defenders come forward to vehemently push back against the wave of opposition. Criticisms of the nearly 36-year-old’s youth were scoffed at and those in support of him said they believed he was absolutely the best choice as a long-standing, upstanding, conservative-minded member of the community and a very intelligent individual.
His father, Greg Hafen Sr., came forward to censure opponents for bashing his son when he said they do not even know Hafen II. He also assured the community that Hafen II had no intention of taking away anyone’s water.
The commissioners themselves appeared to disregard much of the negativity and chose not to engage in an extensive discussion regarding the various merits of each candidate.
Once all of the candidates present were able to make their case, the commission took a short break before reconvening to an immediate motion from commissioner Wichman to nominate Hafen II. Schinhofen seconded the motion, and it passed with Cox opposed.
Hafen II said he was very pleased to have been selected by all three commissions, telling the Times, “I am deeply honored to receive the nomination for the appointment to the Assembly District 36 seat from Lincoln, Clark and Nye County. I am very thankful for the support of the commissioners and all the support that I have received from the community, my friends and my family. I look forward to the challenges ahead and plan to work hard to try to help solve the issues in this district and in this state.”
Lawsuit to stall vote fails
Former Assemblyman and Nye County resident Ed Goedhart had been attempting to put a stop to the current Nye County Commission making the appointment for the District 36 post so as to allow the newly elected commissioners to be part of the process. However, his effort has not met with success and he was obviously disappointed by the result of Wednesday’s meeting.
“The thousands of Nye County residents who voted for Dennis Hof en route to his victory were effectively disenfranchised by the court’s denial to hear our case in a timely manner,” Goedhart stated, referring to Fifth Judicial District Court Judge Robert Lane’s decision to deny Goedhart’s request for an emergency hearing in the matter.
“This denial paved the way for the outgoing board of county commissioners to appoint a successor to Hof’s seat,”Goedhart continued. “This outgoing board contains members who exhibited blatant bias against Dennis Hof and who will appoint a James Oscarson 2.0, clearly not what the voters intended or wanted. Instead of ‘The People’s Choice,’ the commissioners gave us a hand-picked puppet of the special interests.”
Nye County on the other hand felt the denial was the proper action to take, commenting, “The county is pleased that the judge did not find enough merit in the lawsuit to delay the process of filling the vacant seat for Assembly District 36.
“As the judge’s decision noted, ‘The Court is cautious of rewarding Plaintiff when he has failed to timely bring his claims to this Court, fully argued and articulate the merits of his actions in his pleadings, given any reasoning for his delays, or why he should be granted relief without providing Defendants with the time afforded them to respond…’ Friday [Dec. 7] will be the conclusion of the multi-county appointment process with a new assemblyman selected to begin the work of representing the people of Assembly District 36.”
Goedhart’s case is now scheduled to be heard at 9 a.m. Dec. 19 in Fifth Judicial District Court Department 2 in Pahrump.