Ensign will seek re-election
Despite two investigations into his conduct stemming from a messy affair with the wife of his former best friend and deputy chief of staff, Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., says he plans to run for a third six-year term.
“I believe I still have a lot to offer the state and our country, and I believe just as passionately about a lot of issues. I think I can still contribute in a positive light,” the senator told the Las Vegas Review Journal this week.
Ensign was on the fast track through leadership and a rising star in the GOP when he announced in June 2009 that he was guilty of having an affair with Cindy Hampton, his campaign treasurer and wife of Doug Hampton, one of his senior staff members. He made the hurried announcement after learning Hampton had leaked news of the affair to Fox News.
“Sen. Ensign has been focused on earning back the trust of Nevadans and does plan to run for re-election at this time,” said his press officer Jennifer Cooper in a statement Thursday confirming the report.
Ensign’s career started to unravel after the announcement when it was reported that the Hamptons were removed from his staff and Ensign’s father, a wealthy Las Vegas casino executive, had given them $96,000. In addition, Hampton also charged that Ensign had directly attempted to help him win lobbying contracts in violation of the law barring such activities for at least a year after a senior staffer leaves. Those allegations resulted in two separate federal investigations, one by the Senate Ethics Committee and the other by the Justice Department. Both investigations are still in progress.
The affair itself also took a toll on Ensign’s conservative base because, in the past, he had presented himself as a born-again Christian and Promise Keeper. He had also made statements sharply criticizing President Clinton during the Monica Lewinskyaffair and suggesting Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, ought to resign after he was charged with propositioning another man in an airport bathroom.
Hampton said that after Ensign was confronted and admitted the affair he promised it was over. Hampton said he later discovered the affair continued for some time after that.
The affair also shined a light on a group called the Fellowship and the C Street house where its members including Ensign and several other Christian members of Congress resided. Investigators have also, reportedly, looked into whether those congressional members are receiving an illegal and unreported gift in the form of below-market rent rates at C Street.
Despite all that, a recent poll indicated Ensign might not be politically dead, that nearly two-thirds of Nevadans support the job he has been doing in Washington. His support among Tea Party supporters and the far right conservatives is even higher, over 70 percent.
His toughest challenge, according to pollster Tom Jensen, might be in the primary where he could face stiff opposition from the likes of Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev.
In the general election, Jensen said it depends on the quality of the candidate Democrats run against him.