Sen. Ensign to Resign

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In the midst of an ethics probe, beleaguered Republican Sen. John Ensign of Nevada announced Thursday that he will resign his office, effective May 3.

“While I stand behind┬ámy firm┬ábelief that I have not violated any law, rule, or standard of conduct of the Senate, 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,” Ensign writes in a statement posted on his website, which will be formally sent tomorrow to Vice President Joe Biden. “For my family and me, this continued personal cost is simply too great.”

As recently as two years ago, Ensign was considered a rising star in the GOP, a Pentacostal with a deep reservoir of support among social conservatives. But in 2009, amid a flurry of rumors, he copped to having an extramarital affair with a former campaign aide, the wife of a staffer and close friend. The scandal stalled a promising career. Since then, Ensign, 53, has been plagued by protracted investigations into his handling of the incident, including his parents’ cash payment to the family of his mistress and the connections Ensign made on behalf of Doug Hampton, his former staffer. Inquiries by the DOJ and FEC yielded no charges, but the Senate Ethics Committee was in the process of ramping up its probe. The resignation, first reported by Nevada political reporter Jon Ralston, comes just one month after Ensign’s announcement that he would not seek re-election when his term ends in 2012, suggesting the senator may have sought to spare himself the scrutiny of the investigation’s findings.

According to state law, Nevada’s Republican Governor Brian Sandoval, who was elected in November, will appoint a temporary replacement. Sandoval could opt to tap Republican Congressman Dean Heller, who has filed to run for the state’s opening Senate seat next year. Democrat Shelley Berkeley has also announced her intention to run.