Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.) said Saturday that he will not seek reelection after facing accusations about sexual harassment.
Kihuen has been under fire after a former campaign staffer and a Nevada lobbyist both accused Kihuen of sexual harassment while he was a Democratic candidate and during his tenure as a state legislator.
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“I want to state clearly again that I deny the allegations in question,” Kihuen said in a statement. “However, the allegations that have surfaced would be a distraction from a fair and thorough discussion of the issues in a reelection campaign. Therefore, it is in the best interests of my family and my constituents to complete my term in Congress and not seek reelection.”
The Nevada Independent reported Saturday that a 24-year-old woman who worked with Kihuen this fall said he “made unwanted overtures and asked overly personal questions,” like “asking if she lived alone and offering to help her move up in her career — something she interpreted as a possible suggestion for sexual favors.” Kihuen also denied this accusation in a statement to The Independent.
On Friday, the House Ethics Committee announced that it planned to open an investigation into the earlier allegations. The Nevada congressman said in his statement that he is “committed to fully cooperating” with the investigation.
Kihuen joins a string of other members of Congress to resign or not run for reelection, after a spate of sexual harassment scandals: Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) all announced that they were leaving Congress in recent weeks. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) also announced he would resign following after multiple claims of groping and unwanted sexual advances.
Kihuen, a 37-year-old first-term congressman who was seen as a rising star, represents a battleground seat that stretches from north Las Vegas into rural Nevada.
In 2016, Kihuen beat GOP Rep. Cresent Hardy by 4 points, attracting $10 million in outside spending. In early December Hardy told The Nevada Independent that he was considering another run at his old seat.
Local Democratic operatives named former Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford, who lost the seat in 2014 and opted against running again in 2016, as a potential candidate. State Sen. Yvanna Cancela, who replaced Kihuen in the state legislature, is also drawing attention as a possible candidate.