Republican Sen. John Ensign of Nevada is turning in his official resignation letter Friday, a day after announcing he would step down amid a developing ethics probe. Now, Governor Brian Sandoval will appoint someone to serve the remainder of the term, which expires at the end of 2012.
Ensign, who admitted to an extramarital affair with a former staffer, said he feared the ongoing ethics probe would result in further "wear and tear" on himself and his family.
"As is its right, the Senate Ethics Committee is continuing its investigation of issues into which it has been inquiring for the past year and a half. Indeed, the Committee even decided recently to devote more resources to its investigation by hiring an outside counsel even though the issues have been viewed and reviewed by so many others," he said.
In his statement Ensign, who must leave office by May 3, said that he could no longer put up with the intense focus of the affair and the ethical issues.
"While I stand behind my firm belief that I have not violated any law, rule, or standard of conduct of the Senate, and I have fought to prove this publicly, 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," he said.
Several Republican Party officials said Thursday they hoped Sandoval would appoint U.S. Rep. Dean Heller to Ensign's seat. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
Choosing Heller or another Republican would give the party the advantage of incumbency in a highly competitive seat that could decide which party controls the Senate after next year's elections.
U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley and wealthy businessman Byron Georgiou have said they are candidates for the Democratic nomination.
Ensign announced in June 2009 that he had an extramarital affair with Cynthia Hampton, a former member of his campaign staff, and that he had helped her husband, Doug Hampton, a member of his Senate staff, obtain lobbying work with two Nevada companies.
Doug Hampton has been indicted for illegally lobbying the senator's staff. Federal law prohibits a former senior Senate aide from lobbying the Senate for one year after terminating employment.
"Senator Ensign has made the appropriate decision," the senators said in a statement Thursday.
Ensign announced in March he would not pursue re-election in 2012 to protect his family from campaign attacks involving his role in Doug Hampton's lobbying career.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.