Timothy Peter Johnson (born December 28 1946) is the senior United States Senator from South Dakota and a member of the Democratic Party. He was the subject of national attention in December 2006 when his ill health raised the possibility that, were he to die, the South Dakota governor might appoint a Republican to fill his seat, thus returning the Senate to Republican control after elections which had given the Democratic Party a slim majority. Johnson has since regained his health, and now continues his service in the Senate.
Johnson served in the South Dakota House of Representatives from 1979 to 1982 and in the South Dakota Senate from 1983 to 1986. Johnson served as Clay County deputy state's attorney in 1985 during his tenure in the South Dakota Senate.
In spite of his recent illness (see "Health" section below), Johnson's chief of staff has announced they hired leading political strategist Steve Jarding for Johnson's re-election campaign for the 2008 Senate election.
While in the House, Johnson was among the minority of his party to vote in favor of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 — a welfare reform bill — and another bill to repeal the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. He was among the minority of Democrats to vote for Bush's 2001 tax cut. On January 31, 2006, Johnson was one of only four Democrats to vote to confirm Judge Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court. He has also called for "broadened use" of the death penalty.
Johnson was, however, among the minority of senators to vote against the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which was strongly supported by pro-life groups. While a member of the House, he was one of only 16 congressmen to vote against the Telecom Act of 1996, which provided for deregulation and competition in the communication sector and was given firm support by Republicans, business groups, and most Democrats.
In May 2007, Senator Johnson received an Honored Cooperator award from the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA) for his support of cooperative businesses.
Paul Hazen, NCBA president, made the presentation to Johnson’s staff at the NCBA annual meeting in Arlington, Va. Hazen praised the South Dakota Democrat for consistently supporting the Rural Cooperative Development Grants (RCDG) program, which creates jobs and bolsters the rural economy through cooperative business. Typically funded at $6 million annually, the RCDG program is the only federal grants program devoted solely to forming and expanding co-ops. His elder son, Brooks, serves in the U.S. Army, making him the only Senator with a child in the U.S. Armed Forces when America invaded Iraq. Michael Moore stated in his film Fahrenheit 9/11 that only one member of the Senate had a son serving in the military at the time; Moore was referring to Johnson, although he didn't mention his name. He and his wife Barbara, a professional social worker, have another son, Brendan, and a daughter, Kelsey.
In Washington, D.C., on December 13, 2006, during the broadcast of a live radio interview with WNAX radio in Yankton, South Dakota, Johnson suffered bleeding in the brain caused by cerebral arteriovenous malformation, a congenital problem that causes enlarged and tangled blood vessels. He underwent successful surgery at George Washington University Hospital to drain the blood and stop further bleeding. As of January 19, 2007, Johnson was undergoing physical, occupational, and speech therapy every day for three hours. This included strengthening exercises to gain mobility and work with parallel bars. His recovery was expected to take "several months." In his 2007 State of the Union Address, President George W. Bush wished Johnson well.
On February 10, it was reported that Senator Johnson was reading news clippings and starting to do some office work from the hospital. "At this point, he has requested more contact with office and is looking for updates from staff," a member of his staff said in a statement. On February 15, Johnson co-sponsored his first piece of legislation since his hospitalization, the Emergency Farm Relief Act of 2007.
On February 20, he left the hospital and moved to a private facility. On March 13 2007, Johnson issued his first public statement, "I want to thank the people of South Dakota and all of our dear friends for their support and prayers. This has been an unexpected journey and there is a long road in front of me. I am determined and focused on my recovery, and I look forward to returning to the Senate on behalf of South Dakota. Johnson was discharged from the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington on April 27. On June 11, 2007, his doctor said that he would be able to resume his full duties in the Senate.
Johnson returned to work in the Senate on September 5, 2007 to both tributes and standing ovations. It was reported that Democrats and Republicans alike had tears during his first speech on the Senate floor.
While Johnson was recovering, fellow Democratic senators raised funds on behalf of Johnson's reelection campaign.
Early polls show him a favorite to beat the Republican challenger in the fall.
Tim Johnson has endorsed Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for the 2008 Presidential election. However, NBC News reported that Johnson's superdelegate vote will go for Hillary Clinton as he pledged earlier to support the winner of the South Dakota Primary.
|Year||Democrat||Votes||Pct||Republican||Votes||Pct||3rd Party||Party||Votes||Pct||3rd Party||Party||Votes||Pct|
|1986||Tim Johnson||171,462||59%||Dale Bell||118,261||41%|
|1988||Tim Johnson||223,759||72%||David Volk||88,157||28%|
|1992||230,070||69%||John Timmer||89,375||27%||Ronald Wieczorek||Independent||6,746||2%||Robert J. Newland||Libertarian||3,931||1%||*|
|1994||Tim Johnson||183,036||60%||Jan Berkhout||112,054||37%||Ronald Wieczorek||Independent||10,832||4%|
|2002||Tim Johnson||167,481||50%||John Thune||166,949||49%||Kurt Evans||Libertarian||3,071||1%|