Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) defended Nevada’s legal prostitution industry on Wednesday — putting him at odds with Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-NV) call this week to end the brothel business.
“You know, that’s a county by county issue and I think and it should be left to the counties,” Ensign told local station KTNV.com after a town hall meeting.
On Tuesday, Reid delivered a speech to the Nevada legislature in which he declared “the time has come for us to outlaw prostitution.” Many state lawmakers defended the current brothel system after and it’s unclear whether Reid’s position has enough support to move forward. Governor Brian Sandoval (R) has said the issue should be left to the counties as well.
Reid was raised in Searchlight, Nevada and made frequent mention of growing up around the city’s brothels in his recent memoirs as well as in various speeches. Nonetheless, local political observers told the Wall Street Journal they were shocked to see him wade into the issue so forcefully, given his lack of opinion on the topic of legalized prostitution in the past.
Ensign currently faces a difficult re-election campaign this year should he choose to run after admitting to an affair with a married staffer. The Senate ethics committee has appointed a special prosecutor to look into the case.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.