Embattled Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) announced Monday intentions to retire at the end of his current term.
In a press conference announcing the decision, the senator, who had been for months caught up in a scandal that included a criminal investigation, cited his family as a reason for the move. He told reporters that he had only recently come to the decision.
Ensign was facing a possible primary challenge from Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV).
The Republican senator was a rising star in the party when he admitted an extra-marital affair in 2009.
Ensign, 51, a staunch conservative with a record of strong family-values stances, had vowed to remain in office after describing the affair as “absolutely the worst thing I’ve ever done in my life” at a news conference.
He said he and his wife, Darlene, had reconciled thanks to marital counseling and that his marriage is “stronger than ever.”
An aide in Ensign’s office told the Washington Post that the affair took place from December 2007 to August 2008 and involved a campaign staffer who is married to a member of Ensign’s staff.
“I will not mention any names but the woman who I was involved with and her husband were close friends and both of them worked for me,” Ensign said.
“Our families were close. That closeness put me into situations which led to my inappropriate behavior. We caused deep pain to both families and for that I am sorry.”
In November, the Federal Election Commission dismissed a complaint against the senator over a $96,000 payment his parents made to his former mistress and her family.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) had said that the payment amounted to an illegal campaign contribution.