John Eric Ensign (born March 25, 1958) is a former United States Senator from Nevada, serving from January 2001 until he resigned amid an investigation of an ethics violation in May 2011. He is a member of the Republican Party and the former chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee.
Ensign was born in Roseville, California, to Sharon Lee Cipriani and a father whose surname was Mueller; his maternal grandfather was of Italian descent.Ensign says that he is one eighth (1/8) Filipino American,his Philippine-born paternal grandfather having been half-Filipino and half-German.Ensign's family moved to Nevada when he was a child. His mother remarried Michael S. Ensign, a gaming industry executive who subsequently became chairman of the board of directors of Mandalay Bay,and who adopted John. He attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, becoming a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity, and later graduated from the Oregon State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1981. He went on to receive his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the Colorado State University in 1985 and entered veterinary practice soon after. He then became a successful businessman, opening a 24-hour animal hospital in Las Vegas. He owned two animal hospitals before entering politics.
House of Representatives
In 1994, Ensign won the Republican nomination for Nevada's 1st congressional district, based in Las Vegas. He trailed four-term incumbent Democrat James Bilbray by a wide margin for most of the campaign. However, Ensign gained considerable momentum after reports surfaced that a Bilbray aide stood to make a huge profit from lands legislation sponsored by Bilbray. Ensign won by 1,400 votes.
He was reelected in 1996 by seven points, even as Bill Clinton carried the district by a large margin.
In 1998, Ensign ran for the Senate but was defeated by the Democratic incumbent, future Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, by 428 votes. John Ensign won a Senate seat on his second try in 2000, defeating Democratic opponent Ed Bernstein by a 55%–40% margin, to succeed the retiring Democratic incumbent, Richard H. Bryan. He was reelected in 2006; he defeated businessman Jack Carter. Ensign and Reid developed a fairly good relationship, despite their bruising 1998 contest. They frequently worked together on Nevada issues. In April 2009, Ensign was planning a June 1 trip to Iowa, the first in his career, causing speculation that he was mulling a presidential campaign in 2012. Given the disclosure of his extramarital affair in mid-June of that year, his presidential aspirations were put in limbo. On July 14, 2009, Ensign announced his plan to run for re-election to his Nevada Senate seat in 2012, even though his polling numbers had recently decreased. For Sharron Angle's debate with Harry Reid on October 14, 2010, Ensign played Reid during one day of her debate preparation at the Trump Plaza in Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Sun speculated in November 2010 that this might hurt his relationship with Reid, who could "man up" and oppose Ensign's re-election. The Las Vegas Review-Journal also noted in November 2010, that Ensign has multiple "hurdles" to re-election. On March 7, 2011, Ensign said he would not seek reelection in 2012 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. The announcement was welcomed by national Republicans. Republicans have suggested he would not even have survived a primary election. On April 21, 2011, Ensign announced his resignation from office effective May 3, stating that he "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."
Ensign is a member of the Pentecostal International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, and is the only Pentecostal in the Senate. He resided at the influential C Street religious house in Washington, D.C. Ensign moved out of the C Street house in November 2009, after disclosure of an extramarital affair and reports that he used his influence to pressure several parties to keep quiet about it. When in Las Vegas he attends a northwest Foursquare church. According to The New York Times, during college at Colorado State, he became a born-again Christian and he and his wife, Darlene, were active in the Promise Keepers, an evangelical group.
He and his wife have three children. He is a member of the religious and political organization The Fellowship, described by prominent evangelical Christians as one of the most politically well-connected fundamentalist organizations in the US.
Between 2007 and 2008 Senator Ensign had an affair with Cynthia Hampton. The disclosure of these events led to investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Election Commission, and the Senate. In late April, Ensign announced that he would resign his office as Senator on May 3. In May 2011 the Senate panel referred the case to the Department of Justice.