Last week, Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., was accused of sexually harassing his former campaign finance director during the 2016 campaign. Kihuen allegedly made repeated unwanted sexual advances and touched the woman, identified only as Samantha, on the thigh without her consent.
The allegations, which surfaced in a piece from BuzzFeed News Friday, drew swift condemnation from the Democratic Party — something initially absent from the accusations against Rep. John Conyers and Sen. Al Franken.
Those calling for Kihuen’s resignation include chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Ben Ray Lujan, Nevada Reps. Dina Titus and Jacky Rosen — both of Las Vegas — and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
And for whatever it’s worth, we at The Nevada Sagebrush also believe Kihuen should step aside. The allegations made by Samantha were also made to the DCCC when she left Kihuen’s campaign last year, and so far there has been no reason to believe Kihuen is innocent of the present charges. Ultimately, there should be no place in politics for men who so callously disregard women.
As of print time, Kihuen has yet to offer a public statement on his future, but private reports seem to indicate the freshman congressman has every intention of staying on the job.
So where are the consequences?
Sure, there’s an election next year. But if there’s no viable challenger on the ballot, it’s not unreasonable to think that Kihuen may still be able to win in his blue-leaning district. It’s also not unreasonable to think that, much like Roy Moore in Alabama, Kihuen’s political career could be sunk outright by these bombshell allegations.
But the fact of the matter is that the 2018 election is still a little less than a year away, and those months mean anything could happen. It’s almost impossible to predict elections this far out, and what we can be sure of is that if Kihuen won’t resign now, he will surely remain in Congress until next January.
We understand that changing the way this system works is difficult, but there needs to be some way to hold our politicians accountable that doesn’t also happen to be two (or four or six) years apart.
Because sometimes campaigns can fall apart (see: the rise and fall (and fall again) of Anthony Weiner), but that’s never a guarantee. And there are ways for those harassed by sitting congressmen to receive settlements or other forms of restitution, but those methods are already highly flawed and do nothing to account for misconduct on first-time campaigns, as has happened here.
So something needs to be done. What that something is exactly remains hard to say, and we won’t pretend to have all the answers. Maybe there’s something to be done on the part of political committees like the DNC or state party organs, or maybe there’s some legal framework that can apply to candidates only or at least some way that staffers who are harassed on the trail can get their case settled in a timely and just manner.
But we need to demand something. Because if we don’t, this will just keep happening.