South Dakota senator hospitalized
By MARY CLARE JALONICK, Associated Press Writer 1
hour, 35 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson (news, bio,
voting record) of South Dakota was hospitalized after
becoming disoriented Wednesday, weeks before his party
is to take control of the Senate by a one-vote margin.
Johnson, who turns 60 on Dec. 28, was admitted to
George Washington University Hospital with an
undiagnosed illness, said a spokeswoman, Julianne
She said, however, the senator did not suffer a stroke
or heart attack. His office had said earlier it was a
Fisher said Johnson would undergo further tests at the
hospital Wednesday night. She said his office did not
plan any more updates on his condition until Thursday.
Democrats won a 51-49 majority in the November
election. South Dakota's Republican governor, Mike
Rounds, would appoint a replacement to serve until the
2008 election should Johnson die or resign.
Johnson became disoriented during a conference call
with reporters at midday Wednesday, stuttering in
response to a question.
Before he ended the call, Johnson appeared to recover
and asked if there were any additional questions.
Fisher said he then walked back to his Capitol office
but appeared to not be feeling well. The Capitol
physician came to his office and examined him, and it
was decided he should go to the hospital.
He was taken to the hospital by ambulance around noon,
"It was caught very early," she said.
In its earlier statement, Johnson's office had said he
had suffered a possible stroke and was "undergoing a
comprehensive evaluation by the stroke team."
Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid of Nevada went to
the hospital to check on Johnson. He called Johnson a
"dear friend to me and to all of us here in the
The White House also issued a statement wishing him a
speedy recovery. "Our thoughts and prayers are with
Senator Johnson and his family," said spokesman Alex
If the Senate is split 50-50, the vice president
breaks ties. That is Republican Dick Cheney at
present. Johnson is up for re-election in 2008.
South Dakota Secretary of State Chris Nelson said
there are no special restrictions on such an
appointment by the governor and a replacement would
not have to be from the same political party.
Johnson, a centrist Democrat, was first elected to the
Senate in 1996 and has been one of the more reserved
members of the chamber, rarely taking center stage at
He served in the House for 10 years from 1987 to 1997.
His focus has been on committee assignments important
to his state's interests Indian Affairs and Energy
and Natural Resources as well as a spot on
Appropriations. The latter allows him to direct funds
to South Dakota.
Johnson narrowly defeated Republican John Thune in his
2002 re-election bid. Thune defeated Sen. Tom Daschle,
the former Senate Democratic leader, two years later.
Johnson has worked as a lawyer and county prosecutor
and served several years in the 1970s and 1980s in the
South Dakota state Legislature.
The senator underwent prostate cancer treatment in
2004, and subsequent tests have shown him to be clear
of the disease. His wife, Barb, is a breast cancer
survivor. The couple have three adult children.
In response to one reporter's question on the
conference call Wednesday, Johnson said he was most
looking forward to spending the holidays with his
family and grandchildren.
Johnson is the second senator to become ill after the
Nov. 7 election. Wyoming Sen. Craig Thomas (news, bio,
voting record), a Republican, was diagnosed with
leukemia on Election Day. He is back at work.
Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman and Natasha
Metzler in Washington and Dirk Lammers in Sioux Falls
contributed to this report.