WASHINGTON Republican U.S. Senator John Ensign, who had been seen as a potential 2012 presidential contender, has told colleagues he had an extramarital affair, a party aide said on Wednesday.
Ensign, who ranks fourth in the Senate Republican leadership and headed the party's Senate campaign efforts last year, planned to make an announcement later in the day to constituents in his home state of Nevada, the aide told Reuters.
There was no immediate word if Ensign would step down as chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, said the aide, declining to predict the two-term senator's political future.
A fiscal and social conservative, Ensign had recently sparked speculation he may seek the party's 2012 presidential nomination with a visit to Iowa where initial contests for the White House are held every four years.
The aide noted Ensign's wife is standing by him.
The Las Vegas Sun, a Nevada newspaper, reported Ensign's wife said in a statement: "Since we found out last year we have worked through the situation and we have come to a reconciliation. This has been difficult on both families. With the help of our family and close friends our marriage has become stronger."
The newspaper quoted an unidentified Ensign aide as saying the affair took place between December 2007 and August 2008 with a female campaign staffer married to an employee in Ensign's Senate office and that both have since left the senator's office.
(Reporting by Thomas Ferraro, Editing by Jackie Frank)