Facing scandal, Sen. John Ensign (R) of Nevada is resigning. That allows Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval to name a replacement, which in turn could open up a US House seat.
Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun/Reuters
Sen. John Ensign’s resignation aims to halt a nearly two-year Senate ethics investigation and spare the two-term Nevada senator and his family a public trial.
Political handicappers say it could also give Republicans an edge to hold on to a seat expected to be highly competitive in 2012. Senator Ensign’s replacement will be named by a Republican governor and stands to pick up the typical incumbency advantage.
But in fact, neither of those outcomes is clear. In a joint statement, leaders of the Senate ethics panel said that “the Senate Ethics Committee has worked diligently for 22 months on this matter and will complete its work in a timely fashion.”
“Senator Ensign has made the appropriate decision,” said the panel’s chair Barbara Boxer (D) of California and vice-chair Johnny Isakson (R) of Georgia, in a statement. That could include the public release of findings and documents that Ensign had hoped to avoid.
The details of Ensign’s admitted affair with a former aide – and the cash and political favors around it – made Ensign’s Senate seat a top prospect for Democrats in 2012.
Until last month, Ensign had committed to defend his seat, claiming that he had broken no law.