LAS VEGAS -- Nevada Senator John Ensign announced Monday he will not run for re-election in 2012. Still under investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee, Ensign said he won't put his family through another "ugly" campaign.
The surprise announcement came the same room inside the Lloyd George Federal Courthouse where Ensign he admitted having an affair -- the beginning of the end for the senator's political career.
"At this point in my life, I have to put my family first. As you all know, campaigns are ugly enough today, and this campaign would be exceptionally ugly. And because of that, I don't want to put my family through that. For these reasons, I will not be seeking re-election in 2012," said Ensign.
Senator Ensign was joined by his wife Darlene, family, and staffers. The senator admitted 2009 to an affair with his friend's wife, Cindy Hampton. He allegedly conspired to get Cindy's husband, Doug, lobbying work. At the same time, his family was accused of paying Doug Hampton $96,000.
Both the Justice Department and the Federal Elections Commission ended their investigations, with no action against Ensign. The senator said the investigations had nothing to do with his decision not to run for re-election.
"I didn't do any of the things. I've maintained all along. I didn't break any ethics rules, I didn't break any of the laws, I didn't do any of those things. Resigning would be admitting guilt. I didn't do any of the things they say I did. I made a mistake. I owned up to the mistake I made. It's the biggest mistake that I'll regret for the rest of my life," he said.
Senator Ensign will not resign and says he plans to finish the two years left on his term in "strong fashion."
Reaction to Ensign's announcement came quickly. The Republican Party and Governor Brian Sandoval thanked Ensign for his two decades of public service. The Democratic Party says Nevada's Democrats "will have the resources needed to win this seat."
Possible Democratic candidate, Congresswoman Shelley Berkley, said in a statement, "I have said from the outset that my plans do not depend on whose name appears on the ballot. Should I choose to pursue a seat in the Senate, I will run on my record of working to create jobs and rebuild our economy."
Republican Congressman Dean Heller has not announced his candidacy and only stated he and his wife "wish him the best."
Senator Ensign only took four questions at the press conference. He did not answer what his thoughts on Congressman Heller possibly entering the Republican primary for Senate. Ensign also did not elaborate on what his plans are after he finishes his term.
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