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Released From Hospital, Johnson Eyes Re-election

Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) now appears likely to run for re-election next year, as he continues to improve from a stroke that had thrown his political future into doubt.

Johnson had put his re-election plans on hold and halted putting together a campaign team pending his recovery from the brain hemorrhage he suffered on Dec. 13. But with Johnson’s rehabilitation following brain surgery going well, his aides now say they anticipate he will seek another term.

“We anticipate that he will run. He just has to get back to a point where he can get back” in the office, Johnson spokeswoman Julianne Fisher said Tuesday afternoon. “I think that he’s made a great recovery.”

Johnson’s office confirmed that the Senator was released from The George Washington University Hospital on Friday, and transferred to a private rehabilitation facility. To protect the privacy of Johnson and his family, his Senate office is not revealing the location of the rehabilitation facility.

According to a statement from Johnson’s doctor released by Johnson’s office, the medical condition that caused his stroke has been alleviated.

“Senator Johnson had his final angiogram last week which confirmed that there is no evidence of residual arteriovenous malformation (AVM),” said Dr. Philip Marion, medical director for the Department of Rehabilitative Medicine at George Washington. “The Senator made great progress in the two months he spent at GW Hospital.”

Johnson, 60, had been planning to run for re-election, and was in the process of hiring a campaign team, when illness struck. He had $629,000 in cash on hand at the end of 2006.

To help maintain his ability to wage a vigorous re-election campaign in a state with a strong Republican bent, seven of Johnson’s Democratic colleagues in the Senate are hosting big-ticket fundraisers for him.

Additionally, at least one Senate Democratic colleague — Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) — has formed a joint-fundraising committee with Johnson, allowing Baucus and others to do the physical work of fundraising that Johnson’s health is preventing him from doing.

“We are putting our full support behind Senator Tim Johnson and are urging senators and others to support his re-election bid,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said recently in a prepared statement.

Johnson, popular at home, could nevertheless face a tough fight for re-election next year depending on who the Republicans nominate and the popularity of the GOP presidential nominee. Now-Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) ousted then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) in 2004, when President Bush was running for re-election and was at the apex of his popularity among Republicans.

Political observers believe South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds (R) would be the strongest GOP candidate, but speculate that he is unlikely to run for Senate if Johnson seeks re-election.

Other potential Republican candidates include former Lt. Gov. Steve Kirby; current Lt. Gov. Dennis Daugaard; state Sen. Dave Knudson; and Public Utilities Commission Chairman Dusty Johnson.

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