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Head of Senate banking to retire

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Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, today announced he would not run for re-election.

Johnson at a press conference in his home town of Vermillion, S.D., said that at the end of this term, it will be “time for me to say goodbye.”

His decision establishes former Gov. Mike Rounds, a Republican and an insurance agent, as the likely front-runner to succeed him.

Rounds is considered the frontrunner because Mitt Romney won 66 percent of the vote in a state that has turned increasingly red over the last several years.

If Democrats retain the Senate, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., or Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., are considered the favorites to succeed Johnson.

If Republicans win, Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, or Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., would likely become chairman. Crapo succeeded Shelby this year as ranking minority member when Shelby decided to become ranking minority member of that committee.

It is expected that Shelby would become chairman of the Appropriations Committee if Republicans won control of the Senate even though he has served on the Banking panel since coming to the Senate in 1986.

Monday Shelby put his own stamp on the Appropriations panel by ousting the six top Republican aides to former chairman and ranking member Sen. Tad Cochran, R-Miss.

Top Democratic candidates for Johnson’s seat are his son, Brendan Johnson, 37, and former U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. Brendan Johnson has served as U.S. attorney for South Dakota since 2009. However, the appointment was controversial because concerns were raised about his father’s involvement in the process, South Dakota officials have indicated.

Johnson, 66, has been in Congress since 1986. He was elected to the Senate in 1996, and re-elected twice.

Johnson suffered a brain hemorrhage at work on Dec. 13, 2006, and underwent emergency brain surgery, a medically induced coma and months of grueling physical, occupational and speech therapy before returning to the Senate nearly nine months later.

Joel Wood, senior vice president for government affairs for the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers, said he was “saddened” by Sen. Johnson’s retirement, and added that “we know his departure from the United States Senate is a loss for the people of South Dakota and the country.”

Wood said he thinks Johnson “always focused on achieving accomplishments and getting things done, but that didn’t mean that he feared contentious battles where politics may not have always been on his side.” Wood said he is reminded particularly of the debate over the Optional Federal Insurance Charter, where several senators stayed mum out of fear of political retribution, but Johnson was a leader in the effort. “The industry has, of course, been a circular firing squad on OFC, but I do think that we would be well-served by more senators taking a principled approach to politically complex issues like Tim Johnson did,” Wood said. “His leadership, intellect, and dedication will be missed.”

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