Report: Rep. Kihuen's campaign staffer said she quit after he ha - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Report: Rep. Kihuen's campaign staffer said she quit after he harassed her

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Rep. Ruben Kihuen appears during an interview with FOX5. (File) Rep. Ruben Kihuen appears during an interview with FOX5. (File)
LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

A woman who served as the finance director during a portion of Rep. Ruben Kihuen's campaign said she quit after he harassed her, according to a Buzzfeed report. Now, officials are calling for him to resign. 

The report said the woman identified as Samantha, who was 25 at the time of the reported incidents, began working for Kihuen in his campaign to unseat Rep. Cresent Hardy in December 2015 and quit by April 7, 2016. She told Buzzfeed that Kihuen, who was 35 at the time, "propositioned her for dates and sex despite her repeated rejections." Adding, on two occasions she said he touched her thighs without her consent. 

Buzzfeed reported on Feb. 6, 2016, Samantha said she accompanied Kihuen to a fundraiser, a regular function of her job, and as they left the event she said he stated, "you look really good, I'd like to take you out if you didn't work for me." She told him she had a boyfriend and left.

Samantha said the advances became "more frequent and more aggressive," she said he repeatedly said he would like to take her out if she didn't work for him and he asked he if had ever "cheated on her boyfriend."

During another work event in February 2016, Samantha and Kihuen were at the Aria for a meeting with Rep. Tony Cardenas. In the elevator on the way up to the meeting, Samantha claimed Kihuen told her "we should get a hotel room here." She said "no," but he just laughed at her. During the car ride back to the campaign office, she said Kihuen started touching her thigh and she told him to stop. 

In March, she said Kihuen asked for help with something on a computer and Samantha claimed as she was looking a the screen he grabbed the back of her thigh. She asked him what he was doing, then he stopped. She left the campaign a short time after that incident. 

Samantha spoke to a contact at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to explain why she decided to quit abruptly. She said Kihuen did things that made her feel uncomfortable, Buzzfeed reported. The person she contacted told another colleague at the DCCC. She said she was not sure what the DCCC could do but she felt like she had to let someone know. The person Samantha contacted said he did not recall her saying anything specific about the incident but he did not believe that she wanted to escalate it. 

Buzzfeed reported because the race was still in the primaries, the DCCC had "limited involvement in Kihuen's campaign. However, the second staffer at the DCCC said he informed Kihuen's campaign manager, Dave Chase, on what Samantha said. 

Chase confirmed that someone at the DCCC called to inform him of what Samantha said. He also told Buzzfeed that he confronted Kihuen and he denied any wrongdoing. Chase told FOX5 he did not want to comment further on the incident besides what was in the Buzzfeed article. 

Kihuen's office sent FOX5 the same statement released to Buzzfeed, which stated, "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, but I want to make it clear that I don’t recall any of the circumstances she described. 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.”

Buzzfeed reported that "a staffer in Kihuen’s congressional office did not respond to a follow-up question if Kihuen denied that the events, as described, occurred."

Officials have called for Kihuen to resign following the release of the Buzzfeed report:

Sen. Dean Heller said, "as I said with Roy Moore, Al Franken, and others, if you engage in this conduct you need to step aside. Ruben Kihuen needs to go." 

DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Lujan said, "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." 

Sen. Aaron D. Ford said, "sexual harassment is not acceptable and should never be tolerated, especially by elected leaders. I am deeply disturbed and disappointed by the allegations brought forward against Rep. Ruben Kihuen from a staffer on his Congressional campaign. I've always held the belief that it doesn't matter if you're a Democrat or a Republican -- if there are allegations of misconduct, we should listen to women and a full investigation should take place immediately with serious consequences. I am committed to protecting women so they feel safe to come forward no matter how powerful or well-connected their offender may be." 

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said in part, "sexual harassment in any context is unacceptable. I am frustrated, disappointed, and disgusted by the stories I have learned from women and men who were harassed and disrespected by powerful men in government, entertainment, private business and media. I support a full, fair and expedient investigation against Congressman Kihuen and any other Member of Congress who have women or men come forward with allegations of inappropriate behavior. This process must be open, transparent and have an appropriate investigatory timeline that delivers justice."

Rep. Dina Titus said, "this is very disappointing. Many believed Ruben had great potential, but unfortunately his personal behavior has jeopardized his political career. This culture of sexual harassment must end. Zero tolerance means zero tolerance. Ruben needs to step up and do what's right for the people of Nevada."

The Nevada State Democratic Party said they commend Samantha for having the courage to share her story. Adding, "we are disappointed in these allegations against Congressman Kihuen and support an investigation into his behavior. There are no excuses and there is no place for this behavior in our party."

Stay with FOX5 and FOX5Vegas.com for developments.

Copyright 2017 KVVU (KVVU Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved. 

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