Kihuen, accused of sexual harassment, says he won’t seek re-election

Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., speaks during a DACA anniversary event at the Consulate of Mexico in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017. Bridget Bennett Las Vegas Review-Journal @bridgetkbennett

WASHINGTON — Rep. Ruben Kihuen said Saturday he would not seek re-election following accusations of sexually inappropriate behavior with women.

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“I want to state clearly again that I deny the allegations in question,” Kihuen, D-Nev., 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 have called for Kihuen to step down over the charges. On Saturday, Kihuen said he would serve out his two-year term. But he added that the allegations would a distract from a thorough discussion of issues in a 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, 37, a freshman Democrat elected last year, is the latest of a wave of elected officials who have resigned or announced retirement after women accused them of sexual harassment or sexually inappropriate behavior.

On Friday, the House Ethics Committee announced it would investigate sexual harassment claims leveled against Kihuen.

In a statement, the committee said it “has begun an investigation and will gather additional information regarding the allegations.”

The statement also noted that “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 said he will cooperate with the committee.

“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,” Kihuen said in his statement.

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

Kihuen’s announcement follows that of Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, who said Thursday he would not seek re-election next year.

Farenthold made the decision one day after the Ethics Committee announced it would seat a subcommittee to review sexual harassment charges against him.

Taxpayers footed an $84,000 settlement reached by Farenthold and a former spokeswoman who claimed the Texas congressman acted inappropriately and created a climate of intimidation in the office.

Meanwhile, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., resigned and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., retired after multiple accusers leveled sexual harassment allegations against them.

Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., resigned when it was disclosed he asked staffer to carry his child as a surrogate mother, and Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, said he would not seek re-election after explicit photos and videos made during a consensual relationship were made public.

The Ethics Committee will now empanel a subcommittee to investigate the accusations against Kihuen, a process that could take months. House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the panel should review the allegations. If true, Hoyer said Kihuen should resign.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has called for Kihuen’s resignation, as has Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman.

Kihuen said Saturday he would serve out his term in Nevada’s 4th congressional district, which includes North Las Vegas, Mesquite and Pahrump.

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

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7390. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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