WASHINGTON – Ailing Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota has raised more this year than he did during the same period six years ago, even though he hasn't set foot in the Senate since suffering a life-threatening brain hemorrhage in December.
Johnson, a Democrat who is up for re-election next year, has been recovering in the hospital and at home since Dec. 13. It is still unclear when he will return to the Senate and whether he will run for re-election.
But his Senate colleagues have cleared his way by holding multiple fundraisers, ultimately raising $1.3 million for him this year. That's about $300,000 more than he raised in the first six months of 2001, the year before his last election.
"It shows another robust quarter and that things are on track and moving forward," said Julianne Fisher, a spokeswoman for the senator. She said there is still no timeline for his return and he will decide whether to run after he gets back.
Johnson's campaign raised more than $660,000 from the beginning of April through the end of June, roughly the same amount the campaign raised in the first three months of the year. He has almost $1.8 million in the bank, and has raised a total of almost $2.9 million for the election cycle.
Since his hospitalization, several senators have held fundraisers for Johnson, and many more have participated. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, created a joint fundraising committee with the Johnson campaign and has transferred more than $80,000 to the South Dakota Democrat. Baucus is also up for re-election in 2008.
About a week before fundraising reports were due, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent out a fundraising plea for Johnson by e-mail to supporters.
"I have some good news to report — it looks like Tim Johnson will be back at work in the Senate soon," Reid wrote. "Tim is up for re-election in 2008 and as he finishes his recovery, we need to make sure he will be able to hit the ground running."
In June, Reid said he expected Johnson to return to the Senate in September, if not earlier.
Johnson was first elected to the Senate in 1996. He won re-election in 2002 by just 524 votes and was considered a likely target for the GOP before he fell ill.
Though Republicans have remained mostly quiet about the race as Johnson recovers, two people have stepped forward to run. Republican State Rep. Joel Dykstra said earlier this month he would seek his party's nomination. In May, Sam Kephart, a self-employed Republican businessman from Spearfish, said he would run.