For the sake of the citizens of the 4th Congressional District of Nevada, it is time for Ruben Kihuen to resign.
As if the allegations of sexual harassment of a staffer during the 2016 campaign weren’t bad enough, Kihuen has turned himself into a pariah in the already minority Democratic Party by basically calling his party leaders liars. His effectiveness for his constituents is now nil.
According to a report by BuzzFeed, a female Kihuen campaign staffer quit in April 2016 after the candidate started propositioning her for dates and sex despite her repeated rejections, and he twice touched her thighs without her consent.
Rep. Ruben Kihuen speaks to reporters in November 2016, while backer Harry Reid looks on. (AP file pix)
The woman said the propositions became more frequent and more aggressive and Kihuen asked her if she had ever “cheated on her boyfriend.” She said the candidate offered to get them a hotel room together while campaigning. She was quoted as saying, “I said ‘no’ very firmly and he just laughed at me. It was humiliating.”
Though he says he does not recall the described events, Kihuen was quoted as saying, “The staff member in question was a valued member of my team. I sincerely apologize for anything that I may have said or done that made her feel uncomfortable.”
Fellow Nevada Democratic Reps. Dina Titus and Jacky Rosen severely upbraided the 37-year-old, unmarried Kihuen.
“Many believed Ruben had great potential, but unfortunately his personal behavior has jeopardized his political career,” Titus said in a statement. “This culture of sexual harassment must end. Zero tolerance means zero tolerance. Ruben needs to step up and do what’s right for the people of Nevada.”
Rosen said in a statement, “The culture where this behavior is brushed aside has gone on for too long, and I believe Congressman Kihuen should step aside.”
While stopping short of calling for his resignation, Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto issued a statement saying all such allegations should be quickly and fully investigated.
Nevada Republic Sen. Dean Heller also called on Kihuen to resign.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Ben Ray Lujan, a New Mexico congressman, both called on Kihuen to step down.
“In Congress, no one should face sexual harassment in order to work in an office or in a campaign,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The young woman’s documented account is convincing, and I commend her for the courage it took to come forward. In light of these upsetting allegations, Congressman Kihuen should resign.”
Lujan said in a statement, “Members and candidates must be held to the highest standard. If anyone is guilty of sexual harassment or sexual assault, they should not hold elected office. Congressman Kihuen should resign.”
But first-term Rep. Kihuen, a former aide to Sen. Harry Reid who has largely held political patronage jobs, threw mud on the leadership, saying, “I do find it interesting that the DCCC, Leader [Nancy] Pelosi and Chairman Ben Ray Lujan — they knew about these allegations last year. They looked into them. They didn’t find anything, and they continued investing millions of dollars in my campaign. They went out there and campaigned for me.”
Spokesmen for Pelosi and Lujan immediately denied the claim.
“Sadly, this is not the case. Leader Pelosi first learned of these allegations from BuzzFeed last week,” her spokesman said.
“Congressman Kihuen’s statement is not true,” said the communications director for the DCCC. “We were presented with these disturbing facts for the first time last week, and the chair immediately called for his resignation.”
The chances of Kihuen being able to accomplish anything in Congress for those he represents are now dashed.
As accused sexual harassers Rep. John Conyers and Sen. Al Franken have promised to do, Kihuen should resign and let the governor call a special election to replace him as quickly as feasible.
The party primary elections for the next term in Congress are scheduled for June and the voters will have the final say in November. CD4 includes northern Clark County, southern Lyon County, and all of Esmeralda, Lincoln, Mineral, Nye and White Pine counties.
The voters of Southern Nevada would be better served by a vacant office than by the unrepentant and self-absorbed Kihuen.
A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel, Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.