- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 13, 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) - Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota suffered a possible stroke Wednesday and was taken to a hospital, his office said.

If he should be unable to continue to serve, it could halt the scheduled Democratic takeover of the Senate. Democrats won a 51-49 majority in the November election. South Dakota’s governor, who would appoint any temporary replacement, is a Republican.

“Senator Tim Johnson was taken to George Washington University Hospital this afternoon suffering from a possible stroke,” read a statement from his Senate office. “At this stage, he is undergoing a comprehensive evaluation by the stroke team.”

Johnson had become disoriented during a call with reporters, stuttering in response to a question. He appeared to recover, asking if there were any additional questions and then signing off.

If the two-term senator, 59, is unable to serve when the 110th Congress convenes Jan. 4, South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds would appoint a replacement.

South Dakota Secretary of State Chris Nelson said there are no special restrictions on such an appointment and a replacement does not have to be in the same political party.

Johnson turns 60 on Dec. 28. The centrist Democrat was elected to the Senate in 1996 and has been one of the more reserved members of the chamber, rarely taking center stage at news conferences.

He served in the House for 10 years from 1987 to 1997. His focus has been on committee assignments important to his state’s interests - Indian Affairs and Energy and Natural Resources - as well as a spot on Appropriations. The latter allows him to direct funds to South Dakota.

Johnson has worked as a lawyer and county prosecutor and served several years in the 1970s and 1980s in the South Dakota state Legislature.

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