Ensign ‘deeply regrets’ affair with his staffer

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) said Tuesday that he deeply regrets engaging in an extramarital affair with a campaign staffer — an announcement that throws a wrench into the junior senator’s promising political career.

“I take full responsibility for my actions,” Ensign said in a statement. “I know that I have deeply hurt and disappointed my wife, my children, my family, my friends, my staff and the people of Nevada who believed in me not just as a legislator but as a person. I deeply regret and am very sorry for my actions.”

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Ensign, who is up for reelection in 2012, indicated he will not leave the Senate.

“I am committed to my service in the United States Senate and my work on behalf of the people of Nevada,” Ensign said at a press conference in Las Vegas. He did not take questions.

Ensign’s office also released a statement from his wife, Darlene, who said she and her husband “have worked through the situation and we have come to a reconciliation. This has been difficult on both families. With the help of our family and close friends our marriage has become stronger. I love my husband.”

An aide has indicated that the affair took place for an extended period of time between December 2007 and August 2008. The aide said neither the woman nor her husband, who also worked for Ensign, has been employed by the senator since May 2008.

Sources said the woman worked on Ensign’s campaign staff and her husband was an adviser to the senator.

Ensign did not name the woman but said she “and her husband were close friends of mine.”

Multiple reports indicated Ensign made the announcement because he was being threatened with extortion. Ensign reportedly told fellow senators the news before he left Washington on Tuesday to fly back to Las Vegas for the announcement.

News of Ensign’s affair comes after Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) announced in 2007 “a very serious sin” with a prostitute while he was serving in the House, and after former presidential candidate and former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) admitted last year to an affair with a campaign staffer.

Just a month ago, Ensign was being talked up as a potential presidential candidate thanks to a visit he made to the early-presidential primary state of Iowa.

Ensign guided the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) through a rough landscape in the 2008 election cycle and became the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee — the No. 4 GOP leadership role in the Senate.

Ensign could be vulnerable to calls to resign. In 2007, when Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) was arrested for soliciting sex in a Minneapolis airport restroom, Ensign called for Craig to leave the Senate.

“The senator said that by the end of September, if the guilty plea was not overturned, if he was not re-established on his seniority on committees, that he would resign,” Ensign said, according to CNN. “Neither one of those things are going to happen. I call on Sen. Craig — if he loved the Senate and his party, he would keep his word.”

Ensign’s call for Craig’s resignation came before Ensign’s affair reportedly took place.

Jon Summers, a spokesman for Ensign’s Nevada colleague, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D), said the Ensign news is “a very personal matter.

“Sen. Reid’s thoughts are with Sen. Ensign and his family as they go through this difficult time,” Summers said.

 Reid Wilson and J. Taylor Rushing contributed to this article.

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