URBANA, IL, April 5, 2012 – Veteran Illinois Congressman Tim Johnson, who chairs the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture, formally announced plans to step down at the end of his current term.
In making the announcement this afternoon, Johnson cited the time demands he faced trying to be with family, while also serving his constituents in the 15th District, serving as subcommittee chairman and trying to campaing in a newly-drawn congressional 13th district.
“I’m almost 66 years old. My time is limited,” he said during a press conference this afternoon. “I have been serving in office for 44 consecutive years. I’m also the father of 9 children, have 11 grandchildren and now two great-grandchildren. I have been a part-time father in all those years. That’s not good enough.
“One of my grandsons is two years old; I have seen him for a total of about 10 minutes. I have another grandson who asked me not long ago if I was ever going to come to one of his ballgames. I didn’t have an answer.”
Johnson was first elected to the General Assembly in 1976 and to Congress in 2000. An energetic congressman and tireless campaigner, he earned a strong reputation for personally calling his constituents over the years, and sometimes making up to 100 calls a day.
Even though Johnson was likely to face stiffer opposition in his new district, which included only about 30% of his old eastern Illinois district, the news that he would abandon his re-election bid took some GOP leaders by surprise and fueled hopes among Democrats that they could pick up the seat.
But Illinois GOP sources believe that Johnson would have defeated Democratic candidate David Gill, an emergency room doctor who Johnson easily defeated three times in previous elections.
The process to replace Johnson will take shape over the coming weeks, with county chairmen from the 14 counties in the new district voting on their party’s nominee. A number of candidates have been mentioned as possible contenders including Rodney Davis, an aide to U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, and Johnson's former chief of staff, Jerry Clarke.
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