August 8th, 2008
12:10 PM ET
6 years ago

South Dakota’s Johnson passes up debates, citing stroke

Sen. Johnson says he won't participate in fall debates.
Sen. Johnson says he won't participate in fall debates.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Despite saying he is able to handle "100 percent" of his senatorial duties, Sen. Tim Johnson Friday said he would not participate in debates this fall due to lingering effects from a stroke.

Johnson suffered a stroke in December 2006, which forced him to temporarily leave the Senate. He returned in September 2007.

"I have been open and honest about my recovery," the South Dakota Democrat said in a statement. "While my speech continues to improve it is not yet 100 percent, and I have not yet reached a point in my rehab where my participation in a debate would accurately reflect my capabilities.

"Therefore I will not participate in traditional political debates during this campaign," the Democrat said.

The two-term senator is up for reelection this fall. His Republican challenger is Joel Dykstra, the assistant majority leader of the South Dakota House of Representative. In 2002, Johnson narrowly beat out now Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, by 524 votes.

Despite declining to debate Dykstra, Johnson said he was completely capable of fulfilling his Senate duties, saying he had not missed a single vote since returning to the Senate last year and chaired and attended committee and sub-committee hearings.


Filed under: Congress
soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. judy, Wisconsin

    Senator, please continue to improve, and to Susie–take your comment and shove it......

    August 8, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  2. Hana

    If he's too sick to debate his opponent, then he should be voted out of office. I wish him a full recovery but, in this case, it appears he's using the stroke as a way to dodge debating his opponent.

    August 8, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  3. Democrat for John McCain

    Mr. Johnson, you must retire. These democrats ask you to continue because thye want to have majority in the senate. It is time for you to take rest.

    August 8, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  4. Allison - PA

    Susie, that is a low blow – Senator Johnson is still regaining the ability to speak properly from the life-threatening stroke that he suffered in December, 2006 – He is understandably concerned about his speaking ability in a debate setting and wants voters to see him at his best. Afraid? Give me a break.

    August 8, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  5. Sherry, Atlanta

    GOOD JUDGEMENT, GET SOME REST!

    August 8, 2008 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  6. Take a hike dem for JM

    The one that should be retiring is J-M

    August 8, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  7. jimmy

    GIVE THE MAN A BREAK. FOR PETE'S SAKE WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE , TRYING TO FORCE A MAN WHO HAD A STROKE AND HAS SOME RESIDUAL SPEECH IMPEDIMENT TO DEBATE ON A STATE OR NATIONAL LEVEL WHEN HE IS AT A DISADVANTAGE.
    YOU PEOPLE ARE LIKE THE ONES WHO THREW HIS OWN GRANDMOTHER UNDER THE BUS. HYPOCRITES.

    August 8, 2008 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  8. Steve Green

    G-d bless him...wishing for a speedy recovery.

    August 8, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  9. TN for Obama

    Has he been arrested TWICE? Our President Has
    Has he shot somebody and called the police HOURS later? Our Vice President Has.

    Step down? GROW UP, faux Dem for John McCain!

    August 8, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  10. texas DEM

    This Pro Obama senator needs to retire.

    August 8, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  11. Chris, Antioch, CA

    He doesn't need a debate. He's up by 30 points! Do what you need to, Senator.

    August 8, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  12. kim hussein smith

    "Are all Democrats afraid to debate?"

    there must be some kind of silliness on FOX or rush saying obama is AFRAID to debate mccain. that is absolutely LUDICROUS!!

    yes, righties, intelligent and informed obama is just TERRIFIED at the thought of debating an inarticulate, lying, misinformed, cranky old man who doesnt even know the borders of the country WE invaded!

    you non-thinkers REALLY need to start thinking, and not just repeat your heroes' words. if you actually gave that sentence even a SMALL amount of thought, you would see how absurd it is!

    "These democrats ask you to continue because thye want to have majority in the senate" --huh?? those EVIL democrats, wanting to maintain their majority-the NERVE! what elitists! i'm sure they'll find some way to tax that too!!

    i CANNOT WAIT until he debates mccain, it's going to be hilarious, and his handlers better load him up with xanax or something, cuz mccain is very likely to blow!!!!

    August 8, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  13. Stuart - Texas

    This would be front page news if it was a Republican Senator instead of a Democrat. The D's would be wailing about how unfair not to be able to debate.

    August 8, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  14. Jim McCall- Tennessee

    A brave man and a personal hero to me

    August 8, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
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