RENO, Nev. -- Lance Gilman is a thriving businessman with dozensof employees. That those workers include a good many prostitutes didn'tfaze the people of a rural Nevada county who recently elected him as aStorey County commissioner by a wide margin.
The Mustang Ranchbrothel owner is the first such owner to win election to public officein Nevada since prostitution was legalized here in 1971, Nevadahistorian Guy Rocha said. And he's believed to be the first to do so inthe state's 148-year history
"He's in rare company," Rocha said."Of course, it's going to be rare because the business of selling sexfor money is illegal in every jurisdiction in the United States exceptin rural Nevada."
Some two dozen brothels legally operate in 10 ofNevada's 17 counties. Prostitution is illegal in the counties thatinclude Las Vegas and Reno, the state's population centers.
Gilman,68, a self-described "dye-in-the-wool Republican who loves Americanvalues," said he encountered few objections to his Mustang Ranchownership during his campaign in the county of 4,000. He won with 62percent of the vote on Nov. 6.
His claims that his bordello,located along Interstate 80 some 10 miles east of Reno, has contributedmore than $5 million to the county's budget over the past decade. It has44 full-time employees, and 30 to 80 working girls, depending on theseason.
"To 99 percent of the voters, they view it as just abusiness," Gilman told The Associated Press. "It's a prosperous businessthat's helped the county."
Gilman attributes his victory to hisentrepreneurial experience. Mustang Ranch is only a small part of hisbusiness empire, which includes business parks, a Harley-Davidsondealership and master planned communities in California and Nevada.
"Peoplewant to focus on the brothel issue ... (but) I've had a wonderful43-year record of business success that I bring to the commission,"Gilman said.
Mustang Ranch became the state's first legal brothel -and most infamous - under former owner Joe Conforte. Heavyweight boxerOscar Bonavena was slain there in 1976.
The cathouse operateduntil 1999 when the federal government seized it after guilty verdictsagainst its parent companies and manager in a federal fraud andracketeering trial. Conforte is now a fugitive in Brazil.
Gilmanbought the gaudy pink stucco buildings that once housed the bordello in2003 and moved them a short distance next to his Wild Horse brothel. Heassumed ownership of the Mustang Ranch trademark when he bought thebuildings from the government.
His current operation, whichincludes the two houses of prostitution, two restaurants and anightclub, now operates under the Mustang Ranch name.
"Hiselection speaks to the acceptance of prostitution in rural Nevada, whereit's just understood," Rocha said. "It goes back to a longstandinglibertarian tradition, and laws reflect that. It's different in urbanNevada, where prostitution is a mixed, controversial bag."
Lastyear, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., took aim at theworld's oldest profession, telling state lawmakers the time has come tohave an adult conversation about Nevada's legal sex trade if the statehopes to succeed in the 21st century.
When the nation thinks aboutNevada, Reid said, "it should think about the world's newest ideas andnewest careers - not about its oldest profession."
Gilmanmaintains illegal prostitution is rampant across the country, and itmakes more sense to legalize and regulate it. He said bordellos paysignificant taxes to rural counties and the women are regularly checkedby doctors.
"I use the term caregivers for our industry," Gilmansaid. "The public has no idea, but so many of the men we deal with aredamaged or widowed or in need of kindness. The industry is so much moreabout providing care and human nurturing than anything else."