Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Ill., on Thursday confirmed his decision to not seek reelection, saying that family obligations, particularly some specific, critical family issues, led him to make his sixth term his last.
“I am here to announce my retirement from the United States Congress effective at the end of my current term,” said Johnson during a news conference in his hometown of Urbana, Ill., and in a statement released by his office. “I will file papers asking the 14 county chairs [from areas within Illinois’s new 13th District] to fill my position on the November ballot.”
Johnson’s decision was unexpected when word began leaking out on Wednesday, especially since he won the Republican primary in his newly drawn district only weeks ago. He would have faced David Gill, a Democrat he easily defeated in the last three elections, in November.
Johnson mentioned redistricting in his statement, saying that “a new and grossly gerrymandered congressional map was drawn that created a district where two-thirds of the voters had never been represented by me.” He said this, and the added legislative responsibilities he took on last year in becoming chairman of a House Agriculture subcommittee, “strained my schedule beyond what I had ever dealt with in my years of public service.”
But he added: “My family obligations, however, are what compels this announcement. Exclusively.”
“I’m almost 66 years old. My time is limited. I have been serving in office for 44 consecutive years. I’m also the father of nine children, have 11 grandchildren and now two great-grandchildren. I have been a part-time father in all those years,” he said. “That’s not good enough.”
He added without details, “aside from the missed birthdays, births, and weddings, there are some specific, critical family issues that require my ongoing attention.” As a result, he said it would be a “disservice to all” to attempt to continue serving in Congress, and that “I am doing the right thing for the people most important to me; my family.” He said he intends to return to a law practice.
Johnson said he is “confident the Republican Party will find the right person” to fill this seat. But two men inside his own congressional office who have been the topics of speculation—his chief of staff, Mark Shelden, and his communications director, Phil Bloomer—“have allowed me to tell you that they will not be candidates for the office," he said. "Additionally, no member of my family will be a candidate.”
In a statement, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions of Texas praised Johnson’s service and said he is confident that Republicans will retain his seat.
“This is a seat that favors Republicans, and Democrats are stuck with an incredibly flawed candidate who is attempting his fourth futile campaign for Congress,” Sessions said. “Illinois and our nation have been blessed by Tim Johnson’s lifetime of public service, and I am confident that Tim’s legacy of Republican leadership will continue as Illinois voters elect a new Republican to fight for freedom and prosperity.”