Updated: 3:43 p.m.
Embattled Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) on Monday rejected calls for his resignation based on an extramarital affair with a former aide, saying to do so would take the focus off Republican efforts to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
In his first live interview since news of the affair broke this summer, Ensign warned Las Vegas Newsradio KXNT talk show host Alan Stock: “If I resign, we have a second Senate race. For the people who want to beat Harry Reid, if you have a second Senate race in this state you take the focus off of Harry Reid. ... I think that would hurt the conservative cause.— Stock has called on Ensign, up for re-election in 2012, to step down.
“If I were to listen to some folks out there, we’d have a second Senate race. People need to think about that,— Ensign said.
Ensign also sought to cast his affair with former campaign staffer Cynthia Hampton — who is married to Ensign’s former top personal office aide Doug Hampton — in a positive light. “If I could ever take anything back in my entire life ... it was a huge mistake,— Ensign told Stock, later adding that “sometimes the worst things in life turn out in a very positive way. I’m married to an extraordinary woman, someone who would forgive and someone who would fight for her marriage and her family. I would tell people Darlene and I are doing better than we have before. We’re parenting better ... because this thing has drawn us closer than before.—
Ensign, who is facing at least a “preliminary inquiry— by the Senate Ethics Committee, also called the affair a distraction. Still, he said he remains focused on his family and job as a Senator.
“Certainly it’s been a distraction, but I’ve really worked hard on working on my family and working on my job,— Ensign said.
Ensign first acknowledged the relationship with Hampton last summer and immediately gave up his GOP leadership job as the Conference’s policy chairman. He has consistently refused to step down from the Senate.
During the interview, Ensign also denied claims by Doug Hampton that — after having learned of the affair between the Senator and his wife — Ensign arranged for him to get a job as a lobbyist.
“I’ve recommended countless numbers [of people] and gotten them jobs. ... I didn’t say hire him, I recommended him,— he said, adding, “the vast majority of people did not hire him. ... It’s a very common practice. It’s perfectly legal.—
Ensign also said he has been in contact with several Republicans running for office next year, and while he did not give names, he said they want his help.
“A lot of people running for office next year, I’ve met with them. They actually want me involved in their campaigns,— Ensign said.