by Sean Whaley – Nevada News Bureau
A national Democratic organization is questioning whether two Nevada GOP senate candidates are now distancing themselves from U.S. Sen. John Ensign following the disclosure this week the Republican senator is under FBI investigation following his disclosure last summer of an extramarital affair.
“Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian have been embattled Senator John Ensign’s number one cheerleaders since he announced his affair last summer,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee National Press Secretary Deirdre Murphy. “With Ensign now under FBI investigation, will Lowden and Tarkanian change their tune and distance themselves from him?”
Both Lowden and Tarkanian are vying to win the Republican primary for the right to face Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in the November election.
Murphy cited a recent comment by Lowden that it is good the Ensign matter is being investigated. Murphy also noted that Tarkanian, who last fall said he would welcome Ensign’s support, acknowledged his position would change if the Ensign matter became more serious.
In response, Lowden said she continues to believe Ensign’s troubles are between him and his family and colleagues.
“The investigation should be fair, unbiased and thorough so that any findings can bring clarity to Nevada voters and ultimate closure to this subject,” she said in a statement.
Tarkanian acknowledged concerns about whether Ensign can represent Nevada effectively given the current situation and said he does not plan to campaign with Ensign this fall.
He cited comments by Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., made on the Nevada NewsMakers program earlier this month about the difficulties the Nevada Congressional delegation has had in highlighting issues important to Nevada.
Heller said in part: “I think it has had an impact on our delegation as a whole and our ability to work together. I don’t have any problems working with Sen. Ensign. Sen. Ensign doesn’t have any problems working with me.”
But Heller said when Ensign is present at a press opportunity, the questions always revolve around his personal issues, not “what’s best for Nevada.”
Tarkanian said in a statement: “After consideration of the news reports and Congressman Heller’s recent statements – which I take very seriously – I think the issue is that the people of Nevada need to know that Senator Ensign can represent them effectively. This is a test Harry Reid has already failed repeatedly.”
“Realistically, I do not expect to be campaigning with Senator Ensign this fall,” he said. “I think Senator Ensign knows the focus of this campaign needs to stay where it belongs: on Harry Reid’s utter failure to represent the people of Nevada.”