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Latest target of sexual misconduct claims, Kihuen facing pressure to resign

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The political future of Nevada freshman lawmaker Ruben Kihuen appears to be in serious jeopardy.

A majority of fellow lawmakers and Democratic officials are calling for the rising freshman Hispanic star to step down from Congress following claims by a former campaign staffer that she quit because of his repeated and unwanted sexual advances.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California called Friday for Kihuen to resign.

Fellow Democrat Rep. Dina Titus of Nevada's First Congressional District released the following statement Friday after the allegations came to light by Buzzfeed.com:

"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."

Another Democrat, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, released the following statement Friday after news reports and Kihuen and recent reports across the nation about TV starts, journalists, actors and lawmakers:

"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.

The process in Congress to investigate claims of sex harassment have been criticized as being too slow to be effective. That has led to calls for reform of the cumbersome process that can take months or years and can result in taxpayer money being used to pay for any claims.

"As a member of the Rules Committee, I review how the Senate conducts business," Rosen said. "Some of these rules were written before women even had the right to vote. And many more are designed to protect members of Congress and prevent survivors from speaking out. It's unacceptable and I am taking action now to end it."

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Ben Ray Luján also called for Kihuen to resign in a statement:

“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.”

Northern Nevada Republican Rep. Mark Amodei is the only member of the state's congressional delegation who has not released a statement about Kihuen.

Nevada Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford. also commented on Kihuen, who served in both chambers of the Nevada Legislature before running for Congress.

“I’ve always held the belief that it doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican — if there are allegations of misconduct, we should listen to women and a full investigation should take place immediately with serious consequences."

Kihuen defeated former State Assembly member Lucy Flores in the congressional primary in 2016. She said people connected to the campaign were aware of allegations that Kihuen made women feel uncomfortable.

"There was always talk about how inappropriate he was with young women in political settings, in campaign settings, in community settings," Flores told News 3 on Friday.

She also expressed concern about the Democratic leadership because the Kihuen staffer reported her concerns to leadership before her resignation.

"I mean this woman reported what happened to her to people at the Congressional Democratic Campaign Commitee, and they reported it to his campaign manager and they did nothing about it."

State Sen. Scott Hammond, a Republican candidate for Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District, and Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald also called for Kihuen to step down.

Kihuen was hand-picked by former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to run for the congressional seat. There';s been no comment from Reid as of Saturday morning.

Republican Sen. Dean Heller has also called for Kihuen to resign. His statement:

"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."

Buzzfeed.com said the former Kihuen campaign staffer, Samantha (no last name given), worked for the campaign from December 2015 until April 2016 when she resigned because of Kihuen's behavior that included him touching her legs twice and propositioning her for sex on several occasions. She was 25 at the time and told the candidate she had a boyfriend. Kihuen was 35 and is single.

Kihuen's staff released a statement on Friday:

“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 15 years in public service fighting for women’s equality, and I will continue to do so.”

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