An embattled a weak Republican senator has decided he’d rather go out a winner than fight through what would be a nasty reelection campaign.
Nevada Sen. John Ensign, facing an ethics investigation stemming from an affair with a campaign aide, said Monday he would not seek reelection because he wanted to spare his family from an “exceptionally ugly” campaign.
“At this point in my life, I have to put my family first,” Ensign told reporters at a news conference in Las Vegas.
Just two months into the 112th Congress, Ensign is the eighth Senate incumbent to opt out of running for a new term, out of 33 seats up in 2012.
Republican Representative Dean Heller is considered the party favorite for the nomination, but it won’t come easy. Former Senate candidate and Tea Party lightning rod Sharron Angle is considering a possible go at it as well, according to Huffington Post.
The man expected to be the odds-on favorite to take Ensign’s place in the Senate is their current 2nd District Representative, Republican Dean Heller. He’s been sending strong signals that he’s interested in the seat, and voters have been sending him back all the right messages: in late January, polls had Heller ahead of Ensign in a hypothetical primary matchup by 15 points. And that’s where Angle comes in — Heller’s departure from the House would create an opportunity for the woman who failed to defeat Harry Reid to join him in Washington.
And if Heller opts out of running for Senate? Well, that could bring back chicken-barterer Sue Lowden, who lost out to Angle in the 2010 GOP primary. Back in January, Lowden told Chris Matthews: “If John Ensign doesn’t run, and Congressman Dean Heller decides not to throw his hat in the ring, I would think about it seriously.” Of course, if Lowden runs, that will present a pretty tempting target for Angle, as well. Angle’s already demonstrated the ability to raise staggering amounts of money. By contrast, Lowden is having trouble retiring her 2010 campaign debt.
A return of Sharron Angle, Sue Lowden, or even both? Suddenly, I can’t wait for the 2012 campaign season to start!
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