Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada announced today he would not seek reelection in 2012. Many Republican strategists gave a collective sigh of relief at the announcement.
Ensign maintained a stellar pro-life record in his two terms in the US Senate. However, Ensign’s reelection prospects were in dire straits after he admitted to having an affair with a top staffer in 2009.
If Ensign had decided to run for a third term, polls indicate he may not have even survived the GOP primary. Polls showed Ensign losing to Representative Dean Heller. However, if Ensign had made it through the primary, his scandal-plagued campaign may have put Republican prospects of retaking the Senate in jeopardy. Republicans stand currently within four seats of regaining control of the Senate.
Although he has yet to announce his candidacy, Rep. Dean Heller is easily the Republican frontrunner for the open seat. In 2012, Democrats will be eyeing Nevada as a key state for victory in retaining both the White House and the Senate. Rep. Heller has proven his electoral strength even in election years favorable to Democrats. Heller first won his House seat in 2006; the year Democrats retook the House for the first time since 1994. In 2008, while Obama and McCain ran pretty evenly in his district, Heller won by 11 points.
“We’ve been preparing to run against Dean Heller since Day One,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee communications director Eric Schultz told the Las Vegas Sun.
Rep. Heller has consistently fought against the Obama healthcare law, which greatly expands abortion funding and threatens rationing of medical care. Heller has also voted to defend the pro-life Mexico City Policy, which prevented American tax dollars from being used to fund organizations that perform or promote abortion abroad. Just recently, Rep. Heller joined with a bipartisan majority in the US House to vote to deny Title X funds to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion chain.
Unfortunately, Heller also voted to expand funding for harmful stem cell research that required the destruction of human embryos. However, there is reason to believe Heller’s position on the issue is evolving as adult stem cell research continues to produce remarkable cures and treatments while embryo-destructive research has yielded no results.
At this point, the Democratic favorite is Rep. Shelley Berkley, who in her 7th term in the US House, has yet to cast a single pro-life vote. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee will be heavily targeting this race, hoping to offset likely losses in a number of other states where incumbent Democrats have announced retirements.
The pro-life community could count on Senator Ensign to vote to protect unborn children. Hopefully the next Senator from Nevada will carry on his pro-life legacy.
Nevada Right to Life, the largest pro-life organization in the state, remarked on the Senator Ensign’s retirement announcement:
“Nevada Right to Life greatly appreciates Senator John Ensign’s career-long advocacy for the unborn. We are hopeful that his successor in the Senate will be as strong a champion for life issues as Senator Ensign is. We wish the Senator the best in his future endeavors and thank him for his dedicated service to our great state of Nevada.”