Dec. 19, 2017 — Freshman Nevada Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas), who previously said he would not resign when sexual impropriety allegations were made against him, became the sixth current House member to either leave Congress or retire unexpectedly due to harassment claims. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Alabama special election candidate Roy Moore (R) also succumbed to accusations that fall within this same category either through resignation or defeat at the polls.
Kihuen was accused of aggressive behavior with a former campaign staffer. When a second woman came forward with a similar story, the freshman Representative decided to end his current congressional tenure when this session adjourns. His 4th CD is a marginal political district.
When Nevada was awarded a fourth seat in 2010 reapportionment, it appeared that the new Las Vegas-anchored seat would favor the Democrats because the Hispanic population tops 29.1 percent in addition to an African American component of 15.6 percent. But, the district hasn’t always been reliable.
Despite their partisan opponents carrying the seat in the two presidential elections since its creation (Clinton: 49-45 percent; Obama: 54-44 percent), Republicans prevailed here in several statewide elections, and GOP congressional candidate Cresent Hardy (R-Mesquite) defeated one-term Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Las Vegas) in the GOP landslide year before Kihuen turned the tables on the freshman incumbent in 2016. In the district’s short history, the electorate has yet to re-elect an incumbent House member.
Though the 4th District occupies five complete counties and part of another outside of Clark County, thus extending it through the geographic center of the state, 89 percent of its population resides within the northern Las Vegas metropolitan area.
The seat has certainly performed better for Democrats than Republicans, but the results are far from unanimous. The GOP victories here in 2014 were largely because of an abnormally small Nevada Democratic turnout. Just 37 percent of the total turnout complexion in that year were registered Democrats as compared to 44 percent Republican. In 2012, Democrats comprised 42 percent of the total statewide turnout versus 36 percent Republican. In last year’s presidential contest, 40 percent of the record 1.125 million Nevada voters were registered Democrats, versus 36 percent who belong to the Republican Party. Needless to say, the party that saw the larger percentage of it members casting ballots won the preponderance of statewide elections and carried the key districts.
Now that Kihuen is departing, we can expect multiple individuals to come forward to declare themselves as candidates before the state’s March 16 candidate filing deadline in order to compete in the June 12 plurality primary.
Las Vegas City Councilman Stavros Anthony had already announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination back in July. Former Rep. Hardy had originally declined to seek a re-match with Rep. Kihuen, but then recently said he was reconsidering in light of the congressman’s weakened political position. Now, as an open seat, it remains to be seen if Hardy ultimately enters. Businessman and former professional wrestler Jeff Miller had also previously joined the Republican primary.
For the Democrats, speculation will again initially center around former Rep. Horsford. Though he declined to seek a re-match with then-Rep. Hardy in 2014, he would be the natural person who party leaders contact about running again. State senator and former labor union political director Yvanna Cancela (D-Las Vegas) is mentioned as a potential candidate. Financial consultant Amy Vilela had previously declared herself as a Democratic Party candidate.
An open seat in this district merits political attention in what is proving to be a major swing state. At the outset of such a campaign, a “Lean Democrat” rating should be assigned.