WASHINGTON – Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson is returning to his home state of South Dakota for the first time since suffering a life-threatening brain hemorrhage eight months ago.
The senator has been recovering at hospitals and in his Fairfax, Va. home and has not appeared in public since he fell ill. He will travel to South Dakota this month and is expected to return to the Senate in September. Johnson has been undergoing speech therapy and is expected to use a motorized scooter to get around in the Capitol.
In a statement released Tuesday by his office, Johnson said his doctors have cleared him for travel.
"I know my return has taken longer than some people have liked — count me among them," he said in the statement. "But I learned early on in this journey the importance and necessity of relying on the advice and counsel of those doctors, nurses and therapists without whom my return would have been impossible."
Johnson, 60, was rushed from his Senate office to George Washington University Hospital after becoming disoriented on a conference call with reporters in December. He underwent emergency surgery for arteriovenous malformation, a condition that causes arteries and veins in the brain to grow abnormally large, become tangled and sometimes burst.
He was stricken a month after elections that gave the Democrats a one-seat majority in the Senate. It raised the possibility that, if he were incapacitated, South Dakota's GOP governor would appoint a Republican successor and return the Senate to GOP control.
Johnson is up for re-election next year but has not indicated whether he will run. Senate colleagues have held multiple fundraisers for him, raising $1.3 million for him by the end of June.
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. Two Republicans have said they would seek the seat: Republican State Rep. Joel Dykstra and Sam Kephart, a self-employed Republican businessman.
Johnson spokeswoman Julianne Fisher said no public appearances have been officially planned.
"He wants to go home to thank the people of South Dakota, but we are still planning," she said.