Illinois Republican Representative Tim Johnson to Retire

U.S. Representative Tim Johnson, an Illinois Republican, announced he won’t seek re-election, raising the possibility of a closer contest with Democrats over a seat that has been safe for his party.

Johnson would have faced Democrat David Gill, an emergency-room doctor he defeated in previous election battles, in a newly drawn district that contained only parts of his old turf. Johnson won his primary election March 20 with 69 percent of the vote.

In a statement issued today by his press office, Johnson called the district a “new and grossly gerrymandered congressional map” that “created a district where two-thirds of the voters had never been represented by me.”

Even so, Johnson said his decision was primarily driven by family obligations. “I’m almost 66 years old; my time is limited,” said Johnson, who said he intends to return to legal practice. “I have been serving in office for 44 consecutive years.”

First elected to Congress in 2000, Johnson was one of 91 Republicans who voted against an extension of a payroll-tax cut in February. He was among 38 House members, including 16 Republicans, who on March 28 backed a budget proposal based on the Simpson-Bowles commission leaders’ proposal. He also voted for the budget passed by the House the following day.

Democratic legislators substantially revised his district, currently based in eastern Illinois, to span almost the entire width of the state. The reconfigured district takes in Decatur and part of Springfield, the state capital.

According to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman, residents of the new district voted 55 percent for President Barack Obama. Wasserman said the race will still be tough for Democrats and that it remains favorable for Republicans.

“It’s still Republicans who have more reason to be optimistic about holding the seat,” he said in an online post that added he is keeping the seat in the “lean Republican” column.

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