Sen. John Ensign not worried about potential run by Rep. Dean Heller

RENO - Sen. John Ensign says he's devoted to seeking re-election in 2012, and doesn't worry about facing a challenge from within his party from Rep. Dean Heller.

Ensign, in remarks to reporters after speaking to a business group Wednesday in Reno, acknowledged he faces a "very, very difficult" campaign because of his affair with a former campaign aide.

But the Nevada Republican said he's now putting together a campaign team and fundraisers, and isn't concerned about who will run for his seat.

"I don't worry about any of that stuff," Ensign said of Heller's interest in the race. "All that will take care of itself. I just have to worry about doing my job.

"There's no question this is going to be very, very difficult. I'm well aware of that. I have a lot of work to do with the people of the state of Nevada, and I plan on doing that work to try to earn their trust back," he added.

Heller, who spoke to the same group Wednesday, said afterward that he's still considering challenging Ensign but has not set a deadline for reaching a decision.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't thinking about it," Heller said, adding he has received encouragement to run from top Republicans outside Washington.

Last April, Heller stopped short of calling for Ensign's resignation, but he said Ensign was a "wounded" senator whose ethical woes were dragging him down.

Asked Wednesday whether he thinks Ensign should seek a third term, Heller replied, "That's a decision he has to make. If he wants to run, he has a right to run."

The Senate Ethics Committee is investigating allegations arising from Ensign's extramarital affair with former aide Cynthia Hampton.

In December, Ensign's attorneys announced the Justice Department was no longer targeting Ensign in a criminal investigation arising from the affair.

The department had been looking into whether Ensign conspired with Hampton's husband, Doug Hampton, to violate federal lobbying restrictions.

Ensign said he's hoping to be cleared by the Senate Ethics Committee investigation. In November, the Federal Election Commission dismissed a complaint against him over the $96,000 payment made to Cynthia Hampton and her family.

"I would like to get it over with as quickly as possible, but I can't control that," he said. "I have no control (over the outcome). They don't talk to you about it. They don't talk to you about anything."


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