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Facing Harassment Allegations, Ruben Kihuen Won’t Run for Re-election

Nevada freshman had been seen as rising Democratic star

Former Rep. Ruben Kihuen's tenure in Congress was defined mostly by a sexual harassment scandal. Now he is running for city council in Las Vegas. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Former Rep. Ruben Kihuen's tenure in Congress was defined mostly by a sexual harassment scandal. Now he is running for city council in Las Vegas. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Nevada Rep. Ruben Kihuen announced on Saturday he would not seek re-election in 2018 — a day after the House Ethics Committee announced it has opened an investigation into the freshman Democrat.

Two women have accused Kihuen of sexual harassment. He maintained his innocence in his retirement announcement.

“However, the allegations that have surfaced would be a distraction from a fair and thorough discussion of the issues in a reelection campaign,” Kihuen said.

“Therefore, it is in the best interests of my family and my constituents to complete my term in Congress and not seek reelection,” Kihuen said.

[House Ethics Committee Launches Investigation into Kihuen]

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Ray Luján and House Minority Nancy Pelosi called for Kihuen’s resignation two weeks ago when BuzzFeed first published allegations against Kihuen from his time as a candidate. His former finance director accused him of touching her without her consent.

Kihuen has said the DCCC and Pelosi knew of the first accuser’s allegations when he was running for Congress last year, which spokespeople for Pelosi and Luján have disputed.

[Ruben Kihuen’s Future in Question as Second Accuser Comes Forward]

The Nevada Independent reported earlier this week that a second woman has accused Kihuen of unwanted sexual advances.

Kihuen continues to deny allegations against him.

“I want to state clearly again that I deny the allegations in question. I am committed to fully cooperating with the House Ethics Committee and I look forward to clearing my name,” Kihuen said in his statement on Saturday. “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 continued.

[Nancy Pelosi Joins DCCC Chairman in Calling on Kihuen to Resign]

The DCCC had removed Kihuen from its list of members in the “Frontline program” earlier this month, but it had not ruled out independent expenditure spending on his behalf. Still, many Democrats had feared the embattled congressman would not be able to win re-election if he were on the ballot.

Kihuen won the 4th District by 4 points in 2016. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton carried the district by 5 points. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Likely Democratic

Without Kihuen, Democrats who could run for the seat include former Rep. Steve Horsford, who lost in 2014, state Sen. Yvanna Cancela, who represents Kihuen’s old state Senate seat, state Sen. Pat Spearman and North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee.

The Nevada State Democratic Party is optimistic about holding the 4th District.

“This is a diverse and Democratic-leaning seat,” communications director Stewart Boss said in a statement.

Republican Stavros Anthony, a Las Vegas City Council member, is already running. Former GOP Rep. Cresent Hardy, who lost to Kihuen last year, could also run.

The National Republican Congressional Committee cited its track record in 2017 special elections to argue it can win the 4th District in 2018. All the special elections the NRCC contested this year were in GOP-leaning seats.

“The NRCC is undefeated in special elections this year. Now that Rep. Kihuen has stepped aside, we are ready to go on offense and win this seat,” communications director Matt Gorman said in a statement Saturday night. 

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.

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