LAS VEGAS (KXNT) – Pressure is mounting on Nevada Democratic congressman Ruben Kihuen to resign following a report that Kihuen sexually assaulted a female staffer during his 2016 congressional campaign, according to reports.
A story posted by BuzzFeed News Friday recounted the story of a 25-year-old woman named Samantha, who worked as a finance director in Kihuen’s campaign. She claims the 35-year-old now-congressman propositioned her repeatedly for dates and sex and twice touched her thighs without consent.
The woman, who joined with Kihuen early in his campaign to unseat Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy in December 2015, quit in April 2016.
The woman said she didn’t know how to report her experience at the time, but told BuzzFeed News that she spoke with someone at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to explain why she was quitting.
Kihuen’s former campaign manager Dave Chase was also quoted in the BuzzFeed News story. He reported that he was aware of Samantha’s complaint and said Kihuen denied the woman’s allegations.
In a statement issued to BuzzFeed, Kihuen said, “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. I take this matter seriously as it is not indicative of who I am. I was raised in a strong family that taught me to treat women with the utmost dignity and respect. I have spent my fifteen years in public service fighting for women’s equality, and I will continue to do so.”
Following the story’s publication, the congressman’s office issued another statement from Kihuen, who said he wanted to “make it clear that I don’t recall any of the circumstances” of the allegation.
In a statement to CNN, DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Lujan called on Kihuen to resign.
“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,” Lujan said.
“I have spent my fifteen years in public service fighting for women’s equality, and I will continue to do so,” the congressman said.
A UNLV graduate, Kihuen was a two-term state assemblyman before being elected to the Nevada State Senate in 2010. In 2015, Kihuen announced his plans to run for Congress in Nevada’s 4th congressional district against first-term incumbent Hardy. Kihuen won the election by a margin of only 15,600 votes — 128,680 (48.5%) to 118,220 (44.5%). He was sworn in as the first Hispanic to represent Nevada in the House of Representatives last January.
Congressional leaders are under pressure to respond to a national outcry against sexual harassment. The allegations against Kihuen come after Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., was accused of sexually harassing members of his staff and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., was accused of inappropriate touching.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has called on Conyers to resign. His lawyer, Arnold Reed, said Friday the congressman, the longest-serving member of the House, will discuss in the next few days whether to resign, but his health will be the paramount factor and not pressure from Washington politicians.