Ailing S.D. Senator Vows to Run Again
Wednesday, August 29, 2007; 8:08 AM
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- In his first public appearance since a life-threatening brain hemorrhage eight months ago, Sen. Tim Johnson told supporters his will to keep fighting for them "has never been stronger."
He went further in an interview broadcast hours later on Tuesday, telling ABC News' "Nightline" reporter Bob Woodruff he would run for re-election in 2008.
"I expect to run and to win," Johnson said in slurred, halting speech.
Whether the 60-year-old Democrat does seek re-election or not _ his spokeswoman Julianne Fisher said no official decision has been made _ he has come a long way since suffering the brain hemorrhage and undergoing emergency surgery last December.
Johnson spoke for about 15 minutes to a cheering crowd at the Sioux Falls Convention Center. As the state's senior senator was brought out in a wheelchair, he waved his left arm to the crowd, then rose to his feet.
Johnson's face and speech clearly showed the effects of the trauma, but he used his sense of humor to assure supporters he will be back in the Senate soon. Aides said he is expected to return Sept. 5.
"Hard work is something in which I take great pride. So, let me say this tonight going forward: I am back," he said to loud applause.
"Of course, I believe I have an unfair edge over most of my colleagues right now. My mind works faster than my mouth does. Washington would probably be a better place if more people took a moment to think before they spoke."
Johnson's hemorrhage came a month after November elections that gave the Democrats a one-seat majority in the Senate, and the attack raised the possibility that, if he died or resigned, GOP Gov. Mike Rounds would appoint a Republican successor and return the Senate to that party's control.
Tuesday's celebration was a carefully choreographed gathering that took on the appearance of a campaign event. It featured choirs, religious leaders and a string of politicians who praised Johnson.
Rounds said that while national political observers focused on how Johnson's illness could affect the party balance, people at home focused on Johnson.
"They talked about 'what ifs.' But not in South Dakota," he said. "We talked about Tim and his family. We talked about the challenges ahead, and we prayed."