Update: the New York Times revealed that Senator Ensign is scheduled to discuss under oath on May fourth the issue of paying the husband and former Senate staffer of the woman he had an affair with $96,000. Ensign claims it was a gift while his former staffer maintains that it was hush money at best and severance at worst which would be illegal.
Senator John Ensign announced yesterday that he was resigning his Senate seat effective May 3rd. He had previously announced that he would not seek reelection following a sex scandal involving a campaign staff member and the wife of his Senate staff. That revelation set off a cascading series of events involving payoffs, cover-ups, and ethics investigations.
We previously covered the Nevada Senate race prospects in an earlier SSS article just after Senator Ensign announced he would not seek reelection. Given the circumstances, it seemed appropriate to revisit that topic.
Ensign previously stated that he would not resign citing that would be an indicator of guilt to the allegations of impropriety being investigated by the DOJ at the time. Ensign has repeatedly said that he had “not violated any rule, law, or standard of conduct”. Now that he has resigned, does that constitute an admission of guilt? Earlier this week the Senate Ethics Committee voted to renew the investigations into Ensign’s activities which would likely involve some rather public hearings. The only possible way to avoid that would be a resignation and Ensign responded that he had no desire to drag his family through all that. It is also possible that the ethics committee could have possibly uncovered damning evidence of impropriety which would have led to an expulsion and indictment.
There may have been other motives as well. Nevada is slowly turning blue and the best chance of Republicans holding on to this seat may well be by appointing someone to replace Ensign before the 2012 election. As mentioned in the previous article, Democrat Shelley Berkley has a decent shot at winning the seat although Nate considers Heller to be the slight favourite.
Now Nevada’s Republican Governor Brian Sandoval gets to appoint Ensign’s replacement which means the political equivalent of musical chairs is about to occur. Sandoval is expected to appoint Representative Dean Heller of Nevada’s 2nd District (Carson City, Reno, and northern Nevada). Heller had already announced plans to run for the seat so this will essentially make him the incumbent for 2012 (Nate points out that historically, this doesn’t necessarily give Heller an advantage). That means a special election will be held for his vacancy. Which means we have not heard the last of Sharron Angle.
None of this even takes the redistricting of Nevada and the additional district that will be created in 2012 into consideration. Currently District two leans Republican. Districts one and three (Las Vegas, Henderson) are Democratic and District four (everything between Vegas and District two) is a toss-up.
So the Nevada political landscape just got a little more complicated. Expect to see a part three to this feature (without Ensign’s name, of course).
- Senator John Ensign to Resign (mydd.com)
- The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell
- The Electoral Implications of John Ensign’s Resignation (fivethirtyeight@NYT)
- John Ensign Expected To Announce Resignation (huffingtonpost.com)