Sexual harassment allegations derail reelection bid for Nye congressman

Updated January 3, 2018 - 5:27 pm

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Ruben Kihuen, whose district includes Nye and Esmeralda counties, said that he will not seek re-election following accusations of sexually inappropriate behavior with women.

“I want to state clearly again that I deny the allegations in question,” Kihuen, D-Nevada, said in a statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “I am committed to fully cooperating with the House Ethics Committee and look forward to clearing my name.”

Democratic Party leaders first called for Kihuen to step down over allegations of sexual harassment made public in a BuzzFeed story Dec. 1. A former campaign finance aide said she quit in 2016 after Kihuen made unwanted advances and touched her inappropriately.

A second unidentified woman, who worked as a lobbyist in Carson City when Kihuen was a state senator, came forward last week with similar accusations of harassment against the lawmaker, according to the Nevada Independent.

On Saturday, Kihuen said the allegations would distract from a thorough discussion of issues in the campaign.“Therefore, it is in the best interests of my family and my constituents to complete my term in Congress and not seek re-election,” Kihuen said.

Kihuen said that he would serve out his term in Nevada’s 4th Congressional District, which includes Pahrump, Tonopah, Goldfield, Round Mountain, Gabbs, Beatty and Amargosa Valley.

In his statement, he said constituents’ support gives him the strength “to represent Nevada to the best of (his) abilities.”

This past Friday, the House Ethics Committee announced it will investigate sexual harassment claims leveled against Kihuen, 37, a first-term Democrat elected last year.

In a statement, the committee said “that the mere fact that it is investigating these allegations, and publicly disclosing its review, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the committee.”

Kihuen cautioned against a rush to judgment.

“Due process and the presumption of innocence are bedrock legal principles which have guided our nation for centuries, and they should not be lost to unsubstantiated hearsay and innuendo,” he said in his statement.

The Ethics Committee plans to empanel a subcommittee to investigate the accusations against Kihuen, a process that could take months.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, said the panel should review the allegations. If they are true, Hoyer said, Kihuen should resign.

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