Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) suffered a brain hemorrhage in January and has been recovering at home since. He has been out of the Senate (although he has been doing work from home) and rumors continue to circulate regarding whether he will run for re-election when his seat is up next year. There has been a lot of news coming out about Tim Johnson and this entry is intended to catch everybody up on the senator's condition and his political status.
cross posted at USD Dems
How is Senator Johnson doing? By all accounts he seems to be doing well.
Former Senator Tom Daschle says Senator Tim Johnson is "as sharp as ever" as he continues recovering from a brain hemorrhage last December.
His mental faculty is up to par but he is still working on his speaking and motor skills. This means he should have the mental ability to do his job but since persuasion and socialization are important parts of being a senator one cannot blame him for wanting to spend more time recovering.
How is his absence affecting business in the Senate? Not much. Democrats hold a 51-49 seat advantage in the Senate. Johnson's absence makes it a 50-49 seat advantage which is enough for Democrats to maintain the majority. Jim Manley, a spokesman for Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had this to say:
...the senator's absence affects Senate business "very little if at all" because Republicans have been forcing the Democrats to get 60 votes for any remotely controversial measure. As it has turned out, Democrats have often fallen four to eight votes short of breaking GOP filibusters on proposals to scale back the U.S. war effort.
So when does Johnson intend to return to the Senate? "This Fall" is being circulated as the likely time with September getting the most buzz. After some conflicting reports that Johnson would return this fall, a host of people close to the Senator have suggested that Tim wants to jump back in sometime shortly after Labor Day including former South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle, Johnson's wife, Johnson's son, and Johnson's Communication Director.
The other big question on everybody's minds is whether Johnson will run for re-election. This is a huge issue because the Senate is narrowly divided and if the Democrats lose the incumbent's advantage then this seat will become tougher to keep which in turn may sway the balance of power in the Senate. Democratic Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (SD-AL) said that Johnson intends to run for re-election barring any "major setbacks." I'm not quite sure what a "major setback" would be though-- slower than expected progress? Another stroke? Who knows. In an interview with the Rapid City Journal, Johnson's wife stopped just short of saying he would seek re-election thereby continuing the media tease.
Who would run if Johnson dropped out? The major state paper, The Argus Leader, floated Stephanie Herseth's name as a strong Senate candidate. Herseth's office wished Johnson the best and hoped for his recovery but not rule out the possibility of running in his stead. Herseth would be the state's strongest Democratic candidate besides possibly Tim Johnson himself. She earned 69% of the vote for her state-wide House seat last fall in a heavily Republican state.