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Snow slows Sen. Johnson, but not rumor mill

Tim Johnson1 / 3
Brendan Johnson2 / 3
Stephanie Herseth Sandlin3 / 3

Sen. Tim Johnson stayed home Tuesday as a winter storm rampaged through Washington, D.C., but his two fellow South Dakota officials went to their offices.

"Senator Johnson is working from home today," said his communications director, Perry Plumart. "The federal government has shut down and all schools are closed," Plumart said. "The storm is expected to hit hard shortly. It is about getting home."

He said the senator's offices remained open and fully staffed.

Johnson, a Democrat who is in his third term in the Senate after serving 10 years in the House, also canceled a teleconference that had been scheduled with South Dakota journalists.

The press conference was called off hours after two more stories were published speculating on his political future.

"South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson is widely expected to announce his retirement this month, and Johnson loyalists want his son to succeed him," according to the first sentence in a story in Politico.

A story in the National Journal doesn't go that far. It states that Johnson is "considering retirement."

Both stories quoted South Dakota political figures who discussed the chances that Johnson's son, U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson, and former Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin may vie to replace Johnson as the Democratic Senate candidate in 2014.

Plumart has repeatedly dismissed reports on the 2014 race as gossip and speculation. He said Sen. Johnson will make his plans clear in the next few weeks.

Sen. Johnson has a home in Northern Virginia. He avoided the Washington-area roads, which were reportedly icy and snow-packed as the storm worsened, but the Republican members of the South Dakota delegation, Sen. John Thune and Rep. Kristi Noem, were in their congressional offices.

"Yes, the office is open and most of the staff is in today," said Rachel Knust, Thune's press secretary. "The senator is also in and will maintain his busy schedule -- per usual."

The winter storm is being called the "Snowquester," a takeoff on the reduction in federal spending, and Knust couldn't help but have some fun with it in her email.

"We're staying warm in D.C.; despite sequestration we're keeping the lights on," she said.

Noem press secretary Courtney Heitkamp said the congresswoman's office was doing business as usual.

"Kristi is here. The House has votes today and she's had multiple constituent meetings," Heitkamp said. "We will be open normal business hours -- until 6 p.m."

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