By Timothy Pratt
LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - A former Nevada state Senator who ran on a Christian family values platform has posed in a bikini as a write-in candidate for the men's magazine Maxim's "Hot 100" contest.
The magazine will announce results of the annual contest next week, but a photo of Elizabeth Halseth posed in a black bikini against a desert mountain backdrop has featured on the magazine's website as one of the most popular 'Hot 100' write-ins of the year.
"The former state senator of Nevada clearly knows a thing or two about campaigning: The votes for Halseth keep on coming," a caption under her write-in candidacy photo reads. "And with a couple years in office under her belt, she just might be ready to represent on the Hot 100."
News of the arc of Halseth's career, from staunch advocate of family to potential pin-up model, has stirred reactions ranging from "only in Las Vegas" to regret over damage to the Republican cause.
Gene Newman, digital editorial director at Maxim, said Halseth submitted photos to the magazine in March, and agreed to be included in the contest. Halseth could not be reached to comment.
Halseth ran as a political unknown in 2010, surprising observers by winning as a Republican in a majority-Democrat district. Her campaign included a mailer with a photo of her opponent, Benny Yerushalmi and his wife, who wore a revealing evening dress. A caption beside the photo read, "Not Our Values."
Then 27, Halseth became the youngest woman ever elected to Nevada's senate. Her star continued to rise as a political group named Citizens Outreach named her "Conservative of the Year."
But then the freshman senator stopped appearing at committee meetings and answering phone calls. Soon details of a rocky marriage that would lead to divorce became public.
Halseth, a mother of three, resigned from the Senate in February, saying in a letter to Governor Brian Sandoval that she needed to "focus my efforts completely as a mother and job seeker."
She also said she may need to leave the state, as the economy coupled with negative publicity surrounding her divorce made it hard to find a job. She then dropped out of the public arena.
Now Halseth has resurfaced.
"Most politicians don't get in touch with us, and most aren't as beautiful as she is," Newman said.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker)