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Sen. Ensign resigns

Nevada’s junior U.S. senator, John Ensign, his re-election fund-raising efforts crippled by a drawn-out ethics investigation into his behavior after he had an affair with the wife of a top aide, had already announced he would not run for re-election in 2012.

Then, in a statement Thursday, the Republican announced he will resign his seat, effective May 3.

The move opens the door for Gov. Brian Sandoval to appoint a replacement to serve out the remainder of Mr. Ensign’s term, allowing the governor’s designee to presumably run for the office with the advantage of incumbency next year.

“It is with tremendous sadness that I officially hand over the Senate seat that I have held for eleven years,” Sen. Ensign said Thursday.

“I am gratified that, after extended investigations, both the Department of Justice and the Federal Election Commission saw no grounds on which to charge me with improper conduct. I was hopeful that, with the closure of these investigations against me the wear and tear on my family and me would soon be over. This was not the case. …

“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. For my family and me, this continued personal cost is simply too great.”

Senate ethics investigators have been examining allegations Mr. Ensign tried to buy Mr. Hampton’s silence by using his office to boost Mr. Hampton’s fledgling lobbying career, after their break.

While Mr. Ensign’s behavior was ill-advised, many have asked whether his actions were really more reprehensible than those of many who still serve in the Congress in good standing.

In the end, though, it became clear he was not going to be able to pull free of the distractions of the ongoing investigations. Once matters reached that point, he did the right thing for the people of Nevada.

Gov. Sandoval now has a chance to appoint a senator who can devote his full time and energies to such crucial matters as the out-of-control federal budget, a full-contact wrestling match in which Republicans — still the Senate minority — need every strong arm in their attempt to turn back a tidal wave of red ink which threatens to engulf the nation’s economy, a risk of which the current occupant of the White House seems oblivious.

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