Sen. Tim Johnson endured some dark days after his life-threatening brain hemorrhage, but he says he never considered resigning.
All political eyes were focused on the second-term Democrat from South Dakota after he fell ill Dec. 13, mainly because of his party’s slim margin of Senate control.
In chatter online and elsewhere, some have suggested that Johnson, up for re-election next year, should resign. But on Thursday, Johnson said he intends to run in 2008, while noting it would be premature to make an official re-election announcement just yet.
“I assume that I’ll get better and better, moving around and my speech, but it’s premature to talk about that,” the 60-year-old told The Associated Press in an interview in his Sioux Falls home. “But I intend to run, and as far as I know, I am running.”
While Johnson was recovering, he said, “I went through some ups and downs; more ups than downs. But I concede there were downs.”
After his progress in therapy exceeded expectations, he started doing Senate work from his Alexandria, Va., home.
“I was fully engaged with judgment calls about bill sponsorships; I made phone calls about South Dakota projects, and I was never discouraged.”
He plans to return to Capitol Hill on Wednesday. His recovery continues, and he hopes to speak and walk better soon.
“It’s a huge frustration for me to be hobbling around and not be able to use my right arm and (have) speech limitations. But I am getting better and better at that, and the doctors say I’ll improve and get better.”
Asked how he thinks he’ll be doing in a year, he told the AP that his goal is to be walking and that he will have discarded the wheelchair and electric scooter he’ll use when he returns.
His wife, Barb, joked that his staff will have to wear sneakers to keep up when her husband is motoring around in the scooter.
When the senator spoke publicly Tuesday for the first time since he was stricken, his speech was somewhat slurred and slow. He said Thursday that his speech will improve along with weakness on his right side and that he looks forward to better use of his right arm and right leg.
“I can BlackBerry and I can use a computer — obviously hunt-and-peck style,” Johnson said. He also said he makes phone calls and can use his scooter by himself.
Johnson expects to vote “full time” upon his return, he said.
The senator said he is not worried about adding the rigors of a re-election campaign to the resumption of Senate duties if he officially announces he’ll run.
“I have to make accommodations for the campaign, but nothing serious,” he said. “I’ll be moving around a lot slower than before, but I’ll be intending to get everywhere I need to be.”
Johnson offered kind words to those who have supported him, noting that fellow South Dakota Sen. John Thune and Gov. Mike Rounds, both Republicans, came together for him “in a spirit of friendship and camaradarie.”
Barb Johnson said she never truly appreciated how determined her husband was — and is.
“I just don’t know how he did it,” she said. “Not only did he exceed all of the expectations that were set for him, but he did it with such an even temperament.”