Rep. Kihuen says he's focusing on job, not next election

Rep. Kihuen says he's focusing on job, not next election (KSNV)

As candidates stream in to file for political office, it’s one of Nevada's political parlor games: What will Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nevada, do?

As first reported by the Nevada Independent and later confirmed by News 3, Kihuen has approached people to gauge support for a run for re-election.

It’s a turnaround from last December when Kihuen, dogged by accusations of sexual misconduct, said he would not run for a second term in office, even though he has denied the charges.

I spoke with the congressman Wednesday as part of our continuing Washington conversation called "Connect to Congress."

"First of all, I want to say thank you to all of my constituents who have been reaching out in the last few months encouraging me to run again for re-election," Kihuen told me.

My first question was the obvious one: Was he running for re-election?

"This is the greatest honor of my life, to be able to serve here in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the greatest state in the country," Kihuen said. "And so right now I am focused on the issues that are impacting our country."

Things, Kihuen told me, like guns, infrastructure, and renewing the so-called DREAM Act, which allows young immigrants brought here to this country as children to stay.

"I am the first former 'Dreamer' to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives," Kihuen told me.

But back to the election: Kihuen has a decision to make because candidate filing ends at 5 p.m. Friday.

"And so, right now, again, I'm not focusing on a re-election. I’m focused on doing the job that I was elected to do," Kihuen said, offering no definitive yes-or-no answer.

If he were to file, he would scramble a Democrat field that planned on campaigning without him. As of the time of this writing, three Democrats – educator John Anzalone, progressive Amy Vilela, and former Congressman Steven Horsford - have jumped into the Congressional District 4 race.

State Sen. Pat Spearman is expected to file Friday, and aside from Kihuen, people are also watching to see if North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee enters the contest.

In 2016, the powerful Culinary Union propelled Kihuen to victory, a natural fit because Kihuen is an ally and his mother is a union member. In 2018, the Culinary appears to favor another candidate with strong Culinary ties: Horsford, CD4’s first Congressman, who was ousted in 2014’s red wave and who served as CEO of the union’s training academy.

If Kihuen were to jump in, he’d do so with a House Ethics Committee investigation into the misconduct allegations still simmering.

"And Jeff, there are other stories about Ruben Kihuen out there," Jon Ralston, the editor of the Nevada Independent, told me last week. "I believe women have not come forward having been satisfied that he’s not running again, he’s gonna be out-of-the-picture. I’m not so sure what happens if he files."

Which may or may not happen.

As the congressman told me after our interview, "I'm focused on doing my job here right now, and that's my only focus. I'm not thinking about tomorrow or Friday."

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