Onward and Upward Sen. Ensign shifts and promotes aides to assist new leadership role

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) last week was elected as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). Immediately following his election to the post, Ensign announced that his chief of staff, Scott Bensing, had accepted the job of NRSC executive director.  

Political consultant Mike Slanker will be political director of the NRSC and Slanker’s wife and business partner, Lindsey, will be NRSC finance director.  The couple own and operate the Nevada-based firm November Inc. All of November Inc.’s federal and state clients in the recent elections won their races.

Bensing, 39, grew up in Lebanon, La. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1988 and was commissioned with an officer ranking of, ironically, ensign. He served seven years as a surface warfare officer, which meant that he served aboard ships.

For the first three years he was aboard a ship in Long Beach, Calif. He spent six months in the Persian Gulf in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm and described his time there as “very challenging. We were right off the coast. High pressure, very stressful, which just brought out the best in ship and crew.”

Bensing then spent a year as an aide to the admiral in charge of the NATO fleet. His last assignment was as congressional liaison officer for the Navy secretary.

Just as he was leaving the Navy, he was hired by Ensign, who was elected to the House in 1994. Bensing was Ensign’s legislative director for four years. In 1998 he worked on Ensign’s failed bid against Nevada Democrat Sen. Harry Reid.

For a year, he worked for former Rep. Steve Largent (R-Okla.). When Ensign ran for the Senate he phoned Bensing and asked if he’d move to Nevada to work on the race. He subsequently served as his deputy campaign manager.

After Ensign won, Bensing became the senator’s chief of staff for the next six years. He sees the move to the NRSC as nothing but positive despite the fact that he will have to commute between Washington and Reno, where his wife and four children live.

“I’ve always had the drive to get into politics in one form or another,” he said.

And he has. Upon graduating from the Naval Academy, he had a 30-day leave to spend as he pleased. His choice? He interned for his congressman, then-Rep. Bob Walker (R-Pa.). “I don’t think I ever got it out of my system,” he said, looking back on his time in the Navy and his transition to politics.

Bensing earned his master’s in business administration at night from American University while working for Ensign in the lower chamber.

Ensign’s senatorial office also has changes. Deputy Chief of Staff John Lopez has been promoted to chief of staff. Lopez, a Reno native, has worked for Ensign for more than a decade. Another new hire is Las Vegas native Doug Hampton, who is administrative assistant. Hampton had served as manager of Conservation for Nevada Power in Las Vegas but will work primarily out of Ensign’s Washington office.