Senator Ensign Announces Retirement
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Senator John Ensign, the junior senator from Nevada, announced that he will not seek reelection in 2012.  For those keeping score, Senator is the 8th senator and third Republican to announce their retirement.

Ensign first ran for the Senate in 1998 but was defeated by incumbent and now Majority Leader, Harry Reid, by less than 1000 votes.  Two years later he captured Nevada’s other seat, defeating Democrat Harry Bernstein.  In 2008, Ensign was the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, a thankless job since it was widely believed that the Republicans would take a thorough beating that year; 2008 saw the Republicans lose 8 seats. 

His reputation was not tarnished by the Democratic wave that pushed the Republicans into the minority in 2008 and Ensign was considered a possible candidate for the presidency until news of a scandal began leaking out.  In June of 2009 he disclosed that he had been having an extramarital affair with a member of his campaign staff, who was also a friend of his wife.  The affair didn’t hurt him as much as the cover up.  Ensign arranged a job for the woman’s husband lined up clients for him in return for his silence, and his parents reportedly gave the woman close to $100,000.  The Senate Ethics Committee appointed a special counsel to lead the investigation against Ensign last month.


Up until today, Ensign maintained that he would run for reelection, causing many Republicans to privately worry that it could cost them the seat.  Republican Congressman Dean Heller was planning to challenge Ensign in the primary and is the front runner for the Republican nomination with Ensign out of the race.  Sharron Angle has also been mentioned as a possible Republican candidate.  Were she to win, she would be the second person to hold the seat after first losing to Harry Reid for Nevada’s other Senate seat.  On the Democrat side, the most likely candidate is popular Congresswoman Shelley Berkley, who represents most of Las Vegas in the House.


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