Sen. Tim Johnson Has Apparent Stroke

Tim Johnson, South Dakota’s senior United States Senator, suffered an apparent stroke this morning.

U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson, Democrat of South Dakota, had an apparent stroke on Wednesday at his office in Washington and has been hospitalized, NBC News reported. The condition of the 59-year-old Johnson was unknown, the network said.

When the 110th Congress convenes on January 4, there will be 49 Democrats in the Senate, 49 Republicans and two independents. But the two independents will align themselves with the Democrats, giving them majority control of the Senate. South Dakota’s governor, Michael Rounds, who would appoint any successor if there is a vacancy, is a Republican.

Obviously, given the tight balance of power in the Senate, it’s natural to focus on the political implications of these things. Still, this is a 59-year-old man with a family and who is, by all accounts, a decent fellow.

Let’s hope for a full and speedy recovery rather and put politics aside for a bit, okay?

Senator Tim Johnson PhotoUPDATE (12/14): Information, misinformation, and speculation continue to swirl. Local DC radio was reporting last night that Johnson did not suffer a stroke or heart attack.

Now, AP is reporting that he “was in critical condition early Thursday, a hospital official said, after late-night brain surgery that followed hospitalization for stroke-like symptoms.”

UPDATE: AP now has more details.

Johnson suffered from bleeding in the brain caused by a congenital arteriovenous malformation, the U.S. Capitol physician said, describing the surgery as succesful.

“The senator is recovering without complication,” the physician, Adm. John Eisold, said. “It is premature to determine whether further surgery will be required or to assess any long-term prognosis.”

UPDATE: In a story timestamped 12:54, WaPo provides more information:

Johnson “was found to have had an intracerebral bleed caused by a congenital arteriovenous malformation,” Adm. John Eisold, attending physician of the U.S. Capitol, said in a statement issued by the senator’s office shortly after 9 a.m. today. “He underwent successful surgery to evacuate the blood and stabilize the malformation.” Eisold said it was too early to offer a long-term prognosis.

The statement quoted Barbara Johnson, the senator’s wife, saying, “The Johnson family is encouraged and optimistic. They are grateful for the prayers and good wishes of friends, supporters and South Dakotans. They are especially grateful for the work of the doctors and all medical personnel and GWU hospital.”

UPDATE: WaPo (5:18 pm)

In an update on his condition late this afternoon, Johnson’s office released a brief statement quoting Adm. John Eisold, attending physician of the U.S. Capitol, as saying the senator “has continued to have an uncomplicated post-operative course” and has been “appropriately responsive to both word and touch.” Eisold added, “No further surgical intervention has been required.”

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James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Hopefully this is more cautionary medicine than anything really serious.

  2. Anderson says:

    Over at the Plank, they were observing that SD requires a new election in 90 days or so.

    Hopefully of course it won’t come to that. (And what happened with that ailing WY senator,for that matter?)

  3. Mark says:

    And what happened with that ailing WY senator,for that matter?

    Last I heard he finished his treatment regimine and is back to work expected to be OK.

    A stroke can have different levels. I suffered a mild one back in 2001 and was fine after a few months of rehab, and if I recall Harry Reid was hospitalized after having a very minor one about 6 months ago.

  4. just me says:

    I think it is a bit too soon to decide he can’t serve in office-at this point the severity of the stroke doesn’t even seem to be known, although I can understand why the media wants to join in this speculation game.

  5. vnjagvet says:

    “NOT A STROKE”, says Johnson’s press office.

  6. Anderson says:

    Now, according to Rozen, the quick election’s only for reps, not senators; if SD gets a new one, he’s there until the next general election.

  7. Anderson,

    It is next scheduled general election for senators, which is June 3, 2008.

    But consider the other side of this. He either has to resign or the senate has to vote to declare his seat vacated due to incapacity. Without Johnson, the senate is 50 to 49, so I have trouble imagining the senate voting to declare his seat vacated. So my guess is that he will just be marked ‘absent’ until he recovers or the next election. The only caveat to that would be if Johnson doesn’t recover, puts his state ahead of party and resigns so that South Dakota can have both its senators available.