- - Wednesday, April 4, 2012

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Veteran U.S. Rep. Timothy V. Johnson intends to drop his bid for a seventh term and retire, a Republican official said Wednesday.

Mr. Johnson is expected to make a public announcement of his decision Thursday, said a Republican official who spoke directly with Mr. Johnson but would confirm the decision only on the condition of anonymity.

The reason for the 65-year-old Mr. Johnson’s decision was not clear, but the official said he wanted to spend more time with his family.

Mr. Johnson is just two weeks removed from a primary victory over two candidates in the new 13th Congressional District, and he was considered a strong candidate for re-election in November despite a new congressional district map drawn by Illinois Democrats.

A replacement candidate would be chosen by county officials from the congressional district. David Gill of Bloomington won the Democratic nomination.

SOUTH DAKOTA

1972 presidential nominee McGovern hospitalized for tests

SIOUX FALLS — Former South Dakota senator and Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern has been hospitalized in Florida, his daughter said Wednesday.

Ann McGovern told the Associated Press her 89-year-old father was admitted to Flagler Hospital in St. Augustine, Fla., on Tuesday evening for tests to figure out why he occasionally passes out and loses his ability to speak, she said.

“He’s comfortable. The tests are continuing to see if they can determine what’s causing this,” Ms. McGovern said.

Hospital officials said Mr. McGovern is in stable condition. The 1972 Democratic presidential nominee, who splits his time between Florida and South Dakota, has been hospitalized several times in recent months, including for exhaustion.

South Dakota Democratic Party Chairman Ben Nesselhuf said Mr. McGovern looked great, gave a 20-minute speech and was in good spirits when he attended the party’s annual fundraiser, named in his honor, last weekend in Sioux Falls.

“Toward the end of the weekend, I think he was getting a little tired,” he said.

STATE DEPARTMENT

U.S. to ease up on Myanmar, name an ambassador

The Obama administration said Wednesday that it would soon nominate an ambassador to Myanmar and ease some travel and financial restrictions on the formerly military-run Southeast Asian nation following historic elections that saw opposition gains in parliament.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced the steps at the State Department, calling Sunday’s election a “dramatic demonstration of popular will that brings a new generation of reformers into government” that deserved recognition.

“This is an important step in the country’s transformation,” she said, congratulating both government reformers and Nobel peace laureate and newly elected member of parliament Aung San Suu Kyi.

In addition to nominating an ambassador, Mrs. Clinton said Washington would allow select senior Myanmar officials to visit the U.S. and ease restrictions on the export of financial services. The U.S. will also open an office of the U.S. Agency for International Development in Myanmar. At the same time, she said that sanctions against people and institutions in Myanmar that try to thwart democratic progress would remain in place.

RELIGION

DNC chief vows no attacks on Romney’s Mormonism

SALT LAKE CITY — Democratic leaders Wednesday dismissed Republican Sen. Orrin G. Hatch’s warning to supporters that Democrats might attack the Mormon religion of Mitt Romney during the presidential campaign.

The chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, described that suggestion as “preposterous” and “utter nonsense” and accused Republicans of doing the same thing to President Obama.

“Let’s remember that President Obama has had so many things hurled at him - birth certificate questions, whether he is or is not a Christian,” she said. “I think they need to take a look inward at the accusations that their party and their supporters have hurled.”

Democrats have frequently criticized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for its involvement in such issues as gay marriage, and Mr. Romney was asked at a rally about the church’s former positions on race earlier this week.

Mr. Hatch made the remark in response to a question at a political event Tuesday night in northern Utah, said his campaign manager, Dave Hansen. Mr. Hatch, also a Mormon, is seeking a seventh term in the Senate.

“He was referring to the possibility that the Obama campaign and friends of Obama will attack the Mormon Church,” Mr. Hansen said. “We hope we don’t see it, but worry we might.”

PENNSYLVANIA

Santorum revives Obama’s ‘bitter’ voters remark

HOLLIDAYSBURG — White House hopeful Rick Santorum revived a political firestorm from the 2008 campaign Wednesday, reminding voters “you’re damn right” that blue-collar Pennsylvanians cling to guns and religion.

“Barack Obama four years ago referred to this area of Pennsylvania, right here, as a place that clings to their guns and their Bibles,” Mr. Santorum told supporters in Hollidaysburg, a town in southwestern Pennsylvania known for its social conservatism.

“You’re damn right we do!” he said, to a loud roar of approval. “We cling to the rights that are God-given, that are guaranteed under our Constitution, including the right to protect ourselves and those we love with the second amendment - an individual right to bear arms.”

Mr. Obama found himself at one of the low points of his presidential run when in April 2008 he made his infamous comment about how “bitter” working-class voters cling to guns, religion and antipathy toward immigrants.

The remark, made behind closed doors at a San Francisco fundraiser, was interpreted by many blue-collar voters and Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton as a swipe at a vast swathe of Americans.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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