The pressure is growing for John Ensign to break his silence over his affair with a staffer who was his close friend’s wife.
Rep. Dean Heller has become the first high-ranking Nevada Republican to call for the senator to address the numerous unanswered question about his torrid liaison with Cindy Hampton. Speaking in a televised interview to Las Vegas Sun political columnist Jon Ralston — who has led the way in keeping the story in the spotlight — Heller said: “I don’t want to speculate, but until John talks, we haven’t seen the end of it.”When Ralston asked, “And he should talk, shouldn’t he?,” Heller replied: “I think he should.”
Ensign admitted to the affair at a mid-June appearance in front of the cameras, but took no questions, and has stayed mum ever since.
The Senate Ethics committee and the FEC have both been asked to look into questions relating to the affair, which involved Ensign, through his parents, making payments of $96,000 to his mistress and her husband.
Heller also acknowledged to Ralston that the Ensign brouhaha had influenced his decision not to challenge Harry Reid for Nevada’s other Senate set next year.
“It just gave pause,” Heller told Ralston. “I had anticipated in a good campaign like this Sen. Ensign being there with me.”
Heller continued: “Sen. Ensign had to be there when I announced. Sen. Ensign had to deflect some of the attacks that would have occurred in a very rough and tumble campaign like that. All of a sudden that variable was out.”
Still, Ensign himself will be up for reelection in 2012, if he lasts that long. Could Heller be figuring he has a better shot by waiting until then?
Indeed, the Sun reports:
A Republican operative, granted anonymity to speak freely, speculated that Reid assured Heller that he would not stand in the way of a 2012 run and would even tacitly help him by directing his fundraising network toward Heller.
If that speculation is accurate — and it’s a big if — it won’t exactly bolster Reid’s credentials as the kind of leader Democrats need.
But whatever the case, things aren’t looking great for Ensign.