Nevada’s members of Congress were silent Saturday in response to news of Rep. Steven Horsford’s longtime affair with a former U.S. Senate intern, while some of his challengers in Nevada’s 4th District called for a House investigation or even Horsford’s resignation.
In an interview with the Review-Journal on Friday, Gabriela Linder detailed a sexual relationship with Horsford that began in 2009, when she was a 21-year-old intern for Nevada Sen. Harry Reid. She said that during the relationship, Horsford, a Democrat who is married, supported her financially and with key introductions. She did not share specifics.
Horsford admitted to the affair Friday, but he stressed it was a personal matter that never involved his professional roles or finances as a state senator or congressman.
An aide for Horsford who requested not to be named said Saturday he had no intention to resign.
“This former personal relationship has no bearing on the congressman’s ability to fight for the people of Nevada, and he fully intends to serve them in this Congress and beyond.”
The Nevada congressman was born and raised in Las Vegas and has been a community leader for several decades, first as CEO of the powerful Culinary Local 226 training academy, then as a state senator for eight years before serving two nonconsecutive terms in Congress.
The Review-Journal reached out to Reid, Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen and Reps. Mark Amodei, Susie Lee and Dina Titus on Saturday, with no response. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office also did not respond.
Attempts to reach Nevada State Democratic Party Chair William McCurdy II for comment were not successful.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee communications director Cole Leiter said the Democratic campaign arm “does not comment on members’ personal lives.”
An attempt to reach the Republicans’ congressional counterpart was not successful.
Although primary election day is technically three weeks away, voting is very much underway in the 4th District. In Clark County, more than 50,000 ballots have been turned in as of Saturday.
The seat is generally seen by forecasters as likely to remain in Democratic hands, but it is by no means a lock. It has been represented by both Democrats and Republicans since it was created after the 2010 census.
Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 39,000 registered voters in the district, which includes parts of Clark and Lyon counties and all of Nye, Lincoln, White Pine, Esmeralda and Mineral counties.
In 2016, the district chose former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (50 percent) over President Donald Trump (45 percent).
Calls for investigations, resignation
There are 13 other candidates in the district participating in either Republican or Democratic primaries, and some reacted to the news Saturday.
Gabrielle “Brie” D’Ayr, a Democrat running in the primary against Horsford, said the seat has been represented by men “plagued by personal scandal” for too long.
“Enough is enough,” D’Ayr said.
Before Horsford’s 2018 win, Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen did not seek re-election after accusations of sexual harassment were made against him.
Horsford has not been accused of any illegal activity or sexual wrongdoing.
D’Ayr said a video in which Horsford appeared on Linder’s son’s YouTube channel was of particular concern.
“(Horsford’s staff members) are good people,” she said. “They are there because they want to do good for the citizens of Nevada. Who could they have been helping instead of spending time working on someone’s personal project?”
Republican Lisa Song Sutton released a statement calling for Horsford to immediately resign and an investigation by the House Ethics Committee into whether any taxpayer money was used during the affair.
“Given this news, I am infuriated,” Sutton said. “I am infuriated for Nevadans of the 4th District.”
Republican Jim Marchant called for a bipartisan investigation into whether Horsford used his position to secure job offers for Linder.
Another Republican, Sam Peters, echoed the calls.
“Congressman Horsford should be immediately investigated over these allegations of financial payoffs, and, if the allegations are true, resign at once,” Peters said.
Republican Charles Navarro called for an investigation and for Horsford to drop his re-election bid.
“The House Ethics Committee must conduct an investigation into whether any campaign or taxpayer dollars were paid to support her financially,” Navarro said.
“The people of Nevada’s 4th Congressional District deserve answers to these questions and so much more.”
Ethics Committee takes time
A complaint or allegation of wrongdoing must be filed with the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent, nonpartisan group charged with reviewing charges of misconduct by House members.
If an allegation is deemed worthy of further investigation, the office refers matters to the House Committee on Ethics, made up of five Democrats and five Republicans. The panel is chaired by Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla.
The committee would decide whether to refer the matter to a subcommittee for further investigation.
It is a lengthy process. Issues that have triggered investigations before include allegations of misuse of campaign finances.
“Anytime a story becomes public like this, the Ethics Committee will look into it,” said a Democratic congressional staffer with no ties to Horsford.
Some recent Ethics Committee investigations into several House members for various allegations took nearly a year to resolve.
Some call it private
Not all of Horsford’s challengers agreed with the calls for investigation.
Gregory Kempton, a Democrat running against Horsford in the primary, said the situation is “shameful” and “shows character flaws,” but he asked for his fellow candidates to honor Horsford’s request for privacy for the sake of his wife and children.
Kempton, a teacher in North Las Vegas, said he sees a need for better role models for young men and a sharper focus on family values.
Fellow Democrat Jennifer Eason agreed with Kempton, saying the recent developments are “unfortunate” but a private family matter.
“My prayers go out to his family during this difficult time,” she said.
Republican Leo Blundo said Horsford’s “personal transgression has dented the foundation that guides public trust and public service.”
“The Democrat voters are the ones to decide if they find this behavior intolerable, and if so, should express that in their vote,” he said.
Randi Reed, another Republican running in the primary, called for Horsford to resign.
“Like scores of politicians before him, he seems to have the attitude that being an elected official somehow means he’s entitled to these types of indiscretions,” she said.
“It’s abundantly clear that Congressman Horsford has forgotten the true meaning of public service and should resign immediately.”