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Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) released a statement Tuesday afternoon announcing that he plans to travel to South Dakota in late August in what will be his first trip to his home state since suffering a brain aneurysm on Dec. 13.
“I know my return has taken longer than some people have liked — count me among them,” Johnson said. “I am very humbled and even a bit overwhelmed that the outpouring from South Dakotans has been one of support, prayer, understanding and patience.”
Johnson has remained out of sight during his recovery, with this statement about his planned trip to South Dakota representing his first extended public comments since being stricken with his illness.
Johnson’s staff recently revealed that the Democrat intends to return to Capitol Hill sometime this fall and noted that he talks to his staff daily and works on Senate business from his home in Virginia. Johnson has remained under the care of his doctors and continues to undergo physical and occupational therapy.
“The doctors have given me a thumbs-up, and [my wife, Barbara,] and I are incredibly excited to head home,” Johnson said.
A recent editorial in the Rapid City Journal called for “more transparency” about Johnson’s physical condition and suggested that he needed “to communicate directly with the media and the people of South Dakota.”
Johnson is up for re-election in 2008, and his staff has said the Democrat is planning to run, health permitting. Johnson’s Democratic colleagues have helped him add to his campaign war chest during his absence, and the Senator closed the second quarter of this year with $1.8 million in the bank.
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Ensign (Nev.) told Roll Call last week that the GOP planned to mount an aggressive campaign to unseat Johnson, prompting a heated reaction from the South Dakotan’s staff.
Two Republicans have announced their intention to challenge Johnson next year, but neither is considered the kind of top-tier candidate capable of beating the well-liked incumbent.
— David M. Drucker