Sen. Ensign breaks with Reid on prostitution, calling it a local issue

Nevada Sen. John Ensign (R) said that legalized prostitution should remain a local issue in his state, breaking with Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidShutdown risk grows over Flint Overnight Finance: Four days left to avert shutdown | Conservative group bucks spending bill | Lawmakers play catch-up on smartphone banking Reid blasts GOP senator over Flint 'hostage' comments MORE (D-Nev.), who has called for it to be banned. 

Reid addressed a joint session of the state legislature this week, where he said prostitution should be made illegal in all Nevada counties in order to make the state more appealing to businesses. Ensign countered that it should be a "county by county issue."

ADVERTISEMENT
"You know, that's a county by county issue and I think and it should be left to the counties," said Ensign after a Wednesday town hall meeting, according to KTNV-TV.

The remark is likely to raise eyebrows, considering that Ensign is in the midst of trying to rebuild his political reputation after admitting to having an affair with Cindy Hampton, a former campaign aide. Ensign faces reelection in 2012.

The senator, who used to serve in the Senate GOP conference leadership, faces an investigation from the Senate Ethics Committee into whether or not he broke rules by helping Hampton's husband Doug find lobbying work. 

But after keeping a low profile since the affair was revealed in 2009, Ensign has gotten back on the trail, holding a series of town-hall meetings with Nevadans across the state.

Brothels are quite powerful in the smaller, rural counties where prostitution is legalized.

Ensign has continued to face questions about his affair at the gatherings. He may also have to overcome a tough primary challenge in order to win reelection: GOP Rep. Dean HellerDean HellerSenate lays groundwork for spending deal GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase Overnight Finance: Senators struggle with spending bill | Obama lifting Myanmar sanctions | Dems turn up heat on Wells Fargo | Panel votes to exempt Olympic medals from taxes MORE (Nev.) is thinking about challenging Ensign. 

Democrats are gearing up to take down Ensign, searching for top recruits to run against him.