Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tarnished Republican drops leadership post

Tarnished Republican drops leadership post
By Thomas Ferraro
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican U.S. Senator John Ensign, a social conservative who had been seen as a potential 2012 presidential contender, admitted on Wednesday that he had an extramarital affair with a female aide.
The admission by Ensign, a member of the Senate Republican leadership, was an embarrassment for his party, which touts family values and is scrambling to rebound from losing the last two congressional elections as well as the White House in 2008.
"Last year I had an affair," Ensign said in a statement he read in a televised appearance back home in Nevada after privately informing Senate Republican colleagues.
"I violated the vows of my marriage. It is the worst thing I have ever done in my life."
Ensign lead failed efforts for Republicans to pick up seats in last year's Senate elections which left Democrats in control of the chamber with 59 of the 99 filled Senate seats. He ranks fourth in the Senate Republican leadership as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee.
Ensign, 51, indicated he plans to remain in Congress, saying in his statement, "I am committed to my service in the United States Senate and my work on behalf of the people of Nevada." He is up for re-election to a third term in 2012.
The senator had recently sparked speculation he may seek the party's 2012 presidential nomination with a visit to Iowa where initial contests for the White House are held every four years.
There was no immediate word if Ensign would step down as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, a party aide said, declining to predict the political future of the two-term senator who had earlier been seen as a rising Republican star.
"No idea," another Republican aide said.
The Las Vegas Sun, a Nevada newspaper, quoted an unidentified Ensign aide as saying the affair took place between December 2007 and August 2008 with a campaign staffer married to an employee in Ensign's Senate office and that both have since left his office.
The newspaper reported Ensign's wife said in a statement: "Since we found out last year we have worked through the situation and we have come to a reconciliation. This has been difficult on both families. With the help of our family and close friends our marriage has become stronger."
A Republican aide who asked not to be identified noted the hypocrisy of Ensign's action since the Nevada senator had scorned colleague Larry Craig after the Republican lawmaker from Idaho was arrested in 2007 and accused of trying to solicit sex in a men's room.
"This is the guy who called Larry Craig a disgrace," the aide told Reuters.
(Reporting by Thomas Ferraro, Editing by Jackie Frank)

Source: Reuters

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