University will miss bipartisan US Rep. Johnson

In a sense, it’s disheartening to see Rep. Tim Johnson, R-15, dropping his seventh re-election bid for Congress in an apparent retirement from more than 40 years of public service and representing Champaign-Urbana.

Even in a left-leaning University town, Johnson commanded a sense of respect and rapport that most other politicians would envy. Whether he was circling the track at the Activities and Recreation Center on campus or being an advocate for the University while regularly communicating with constituents, the Urbana High School alumnus who also obtained two degrees from the University will be missed.

We’re disappointed to see Johnson leave his seat but wish him the best in his future plans, which he said will include spending more time with his family. The 65-year-old Congressman said the next three years he’d spend working a seventh term on Capitol Hill could make up half of the rest of his life, and he seems pretty eager to leave Congress behind.

Johnson’s retirement at the end of this term leaves his re-election record unblemished. But now, with Johnson out of the race, there is no longer an incumbent in the newly redistricted 13th District, giving David Gill — the Democratic candidate thrice defeated by Johnson in the current 15th District — the edge he might need in order to be elected. The new, more urban district, which now includes Springfield and parts of Bloomington-Normal, already makes the seat more accessible to a Democrat.

Already, the Republican Party is scrambling to find Johnson’s replacement. His former chief of staff, Jerry Clarke, has thrown his hat into the ring. We’ll see how much Clarke learned in his 10 years working under his mentor, Johnson, while the congressman represented Champaign-Urbana and the state of Illinois.

We hope that regardless of political affiliation, the next representative of the 13th District will embrace Johnson’s policy of crossing party lines, a habit that made him one of the most independently voting Republicans in the House in recent times. And in an era of fierce squabbling between parties, if you’ve got the bipartisan horn, toot it. Johnson leaves behind him a legacy of cooperation and communication, one that all incoming representatives should maintain.