At a Glance
- Career History: Chair, Senate Republican Policy Committee (January 2009 to June 2009); Chair, National Republican Senatorial Committee (January 2007 to January 2009); U.S. Representative (1995 to 1999); Veterinarian, Owner of South Shores Animal Hospital (1994 to 2001); Veterinarian, Owner of West Flamingo Animal Hospital (1987 to 1994)
- Birthday: March 25, 1958
- Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada
- Alma Mater: Oregon State University, B.S., 1981; Colorado State University, D.V.M., 1985
- Spouse: Darlene Sciaretta
- Religion: Christian
- DC Office: 119 Russell Senate Office Building, 202-224-6244
Path to Power
Ensign grew up one of three children to a single mother who worked in a casino as a "change girl," giving quarters to slot machine players. She eventually married Mike Ensign, who became chairman and CEO of Mandalay Resort Group. Ensign decided to pursue a career as a veterinarian.
He graduated from Oregon State University in 1981 and then went to veterinary school at Colorado State. He returned to Las Vegas and opened his own veterinary practice with the city's first 24-hour clinic. He helped manage a couple casinos for his stepfather and was active in local politics.
Ensign is a stalwart Republican vote on issues ranging from taxes to social issues to national defense. A longtime member of the evangelical Christian group Promise Keepers, Ensign opposes stem-cell research and sponsored a 2006 proposal that would have made it more difficult for a minor to cross state lines to receive an abortion.
During the 110th Congress, he voted with the Republican Party 87.5 percent of the time, splitting with the party on a couple of issues that have a direct impact on his home state of Nevada.
After joining the Senate, Ensign formed an unusually strong relationship with fellow Nevada senator Harry M. Reid (D), against whom Ensign had run a particularly tough campaign in 1998. Former Ensign Chief of Staff Scott Bensing became NRSC executive director when Ensign became the NRSC chair. Bensing was listed in Roll Call's "Fabulous 50" Hill staffers list in 2008.
Ensign is also one of many borders at C Street, a townhouse frequented by Christian lawmakers who counsel each other and study the Bible. The townhouse is run by an Arlington-based network of Christian non-profits known as "The Fellowship", which seeks to advance its values through political ties. Other residents of the house include Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Jim DeMint(R-S.C..), and Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.). Former residents are ex-House Member and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R).