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South Dakota senator hospitalized

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061214/ap_on_go_co/johnson South Dakota senator hospitalized By MARY CLARE JALONICK, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 35 minutes
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 13, 2006
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061214/ap_on_go_co/johnson

      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
      Fisher.

      She said, however, the senator did not suffer a stroke
      or heart attack. His office had said earlier it was a
      possible stroke.

      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,
      Fisher said.

      "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
      Senate."

      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
      Conant.

      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
      news conferences.

      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.
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