CHAMPAIGN — Veteran Illinois U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson intends to drop his bid for a seventh term and retire, a Republican official said Wednesday.
Johnson was expected to make a public announcement of his decision on Thursday, said a Republican official who spoke directly with Johnson but would confirm the decision only on condition of anonymity in order not to pre-empt the congressman’s formal announcement.
The reason for the 65-year-old Johnson’s decision was not clear, but the official said he wanted to spend more time with his family.
Johnson is just two weeks removed from a primary victory over two candidates in the new 13th Congressional District, and he was considered a strong candidate for re-election in November.
Despite a new congressional district map drawn by Illinois Democrats, national Republicans had largely considered Johnson’s seat safe in the November election, citing his efforts to personally call every resident of his district. Johnson even stayed in Washington during Illinois’ primary election last month where he easily won the GOP nomination.
He faced David Gill, a Democrat from Bloomington.
But national Democrats had targeted the seat as a potential pickup, citing how the new map added Democratic-friendly territory to the district. Johnson’s territory now covers a much bigger section of central Illinois to the Missouri line.
A replacement candidate would be chosen by county officials from the congressional district. Habeeb Habeeb, interim chairman of Champaign County’s Republican Party, did not immediately return a call from The AP.
Johnson was first elected to Congress in 2000 after serving in the state General Assembly since 1976. Before that he was a member of the Urbana City Council.
Johnson has sometimes taken positions at odds with the majority of Republicans in Congress. He called last year for an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last month he endorsed Ron Paul in the presidential race.
Leaving now, Johnson will have never lost an election.
Johnson is a lawyer and University of Illinois graduate.