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NYT: Senator Ensign to Resign Amid Inquiry

April 21, 2011- Senator John Ensign of Nevada, the subject of an ethics investigation related to his affair with the wife of a former top aide, announced Thursday evening that he was resigning, effectively ending the high-profile Senate inquiry that had already ruined his once-promising political career.

“It is with tremendous sadness that I officially hand over the Senate seat that I have held for eleven years,” Mr. Ensign, a Republican, said in a statement. “The turbulence of these last few years is greatly surpassed by the incredible privilege that I feel to have been entrusted to serve the people of Nevada.”

Mr. Ensign acknowledged that his departure was inspired in part to avoid formal charges of wrongdoing.

“While I stand behind my firm belief that I have not violated any law, rule, or standard of conduct of the Senate,” he said, “and I have fought to prove this publicly, I will not continue to subject my family, my constituents, or the Senate to any further rounds of investigation, depositions, drawn out proceedings, or especially public hearings. For my family and me, this continued personal cost is simply too great.”

The Democrat and Republican who lead the Senate Ethics Committee released a two-sentence statement late Thursday, hinting that the investigation had documented wrongdoing that merited Mr. Ensign’s departure.

“The Senate Ethics Committee has worked diligently for 22 months on this matter and will complete its work in a timely fashion,” said the statement by Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, and Senator Johnny Isakson, Republican of Georgia. “Senator Ensign has made the appropriate decision.”

Mr. Ensign’s resignation, which will take effect May 3, will allow Nevada’s governor, Brian Sandoval, to appoint a Republican to fill out the rest of the Senate term, thereby increasing the chances that the party would hold on to what may be a hotly contested seat next year. One likely candidate is Representative Dean Heller, a Republican House member already running for the job. Mr. Ensign had not been planning to run for re-election.

If Mr. Heller is appointed, he will be able to run as an incumbent, and by leaving the House he could also avoid some of the politically charged votes expected to occur there in the coming months.

One Democratic member of Congress, Representative Shelley Berkley, is already running for the seat.




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