Dem Rep Accused of Sexual Harassment, DCCC Calls for His Resignation

Rep. Ruben Kihuen / Getty Images
December 1, 2017

Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen (Nev.) is facing calls for his resignation following the accusation that he sexually harassed a female campaign worker repeatedly during his 2016 congressional campaign.

A woman identified as Samantha, who worked as Kihuen’s finance director, told BuzzFeed that Kihuen inappropriately touched and propositioned her, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) chairman Ben Ray Luján said Kihuen should 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," Luján said Friday.

The woman described Kihuen’s behavior as increasingly aggressive throughout the campaign, leading her to quit.

On Feb. 6, 2016, Samantha says Kihuen followed her out to her car after a fundraiser, and he told her he wanted to go out with her.

"He followed me to my car and said, ‘You look really good, I'd like to take you out if you didn’t work for me,’" she recalled.

Samantha alleges that his behavior persisted, making her not just uncomfortable but humiliated, and eventually forcing her to quit.

Samantha said she quickly stated that she had a boyfriend, got in her car, and left. The advances became more frequent and more aggressive after that, asking if she had ever "cheated on her boyfriend" and repeating that he would take her out if she did not work for him.

On Feb. 19, Samantha says she accompanied Kihuen to a meeting with Rep. Tony Cardenas at the Aria Hotel. Cardenas was in town to support presidential candidate Hillary Clinton ahead of the Nevada caucuses. Cardenas’ office confirmed that he and his wife stayed in the hotel that weekend. In the elevator on the way to the meeting, Samantha said Kihuen told her, "We should get a hotel room here."

"I said ‘no’ very firmly and he just laughed at me. It was humiliating," she told BuzzFeed News.

Kihuen drove on the way back from the meeting to their campaign office, with Samantha in the passenger seat. Samantha said Kihuen again asked if she’d ever cheated on her boyfriend, and started touching her thigh. She told him to stop, and said she said "no" and began talking about her boyfriend.

A separate time in March, Kihuen asked for help with something on the computer during "call time" — when a candidate makes fundraising calls — and Samantha alleges he grabbed the back of her thigh while she looked at the screen.

"I asked him what he was doing and he stopped." Samantha left the campaign soon after.

BuzzFeed pointed out that the DCCC required staffers in 2016 to take an "extensive and multi-hour" training program for sexual harassment.