Former Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson dies aged 76

ATLANTA – Johnny Isakson, a friendly Georgia Republican politician who rose from the rank of state legislature to a U.S. senator is known as a post-consensus builder. school, effectively, passed away Sunday. He was 76 years old.

Isakson’s son John Isakson told the Associated Press his father died in his sleep before dawn at his home in Atlanta. John Isakson said that although his father had Parkinson’s disease, the cause of death was not immediately clear.

“He was a wonderful man and I will miss him,” John Isakson said.

Johnny Isakson, whose real estate business made him a millionaire, has spent more than four decades in Georgia politics. In the Senate, he is the architect of a popular tax credit for first-time homebuyers that he says will help reinvigorate a struggling housing market. As chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, he worked to expand programs that provide more private health care options for veterans.
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Isakson’s famous motto is, “There are two kinds of people in this world: friends and future friends.” That approach made him extremely popular among his peers.

“Johnny is one of my closest friends in the Senate,” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said Sunday. “But the amazing thing about him is that at any given time, there are about 98 other Senators who feel the same way. His infectious warmth and charisma, generosity and integrity have made Johnny one of the most admired and beloved people on the Capitol. ”

In 2015, as he prepared to seek a third term in the Senate, Isakson revealed that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a chronic and progressive movement disorder that causes him to have a noticeably slower gait tell. Shortly after winning re-election in 2016, he underwent a scheduled surgery on his back to address a degenerative spine condition. In later years, he was often dependent on a cane or wheelchair.

In August 2019, not long after breaking four ribs in a fall at his Washington apartment, Isakson announced he would retire at the end of the year with two years remaining in his term.

In his Senate farewell address, he pleaded for bipartisanship at a time of sharp divisions between Republicans and Democrats. He cited his long friendship with US Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights hero and Atlanta Democrat, as an example of two men willing to put the party aside to solve problems. shared.

“Let’s solve the problem and then see what happens,” Isakson said. “Most of the people who call people by name and point their fingers are the ones who don’t have a solution for themselves.”

Lewis, who passed away last year, greeted Isakson on the floor in 2019, saying, “We’ve always found a way to get along and do the work that people deserve.”

After the speech, Lewis stepped forward to hug the limp Isakson, saying, “I’ll come see you, brother.”

An Atlanta native, Isakson failed his first bid for elected office: a seat on the Cobb County Commission in 1974. Two years later, he was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives, becoming the only Republican. defeated the incumbent Democrat in Georgia. the same year Jimmy Carter was elected president. Isakson served 17 years in the House and Senate. Always in the minority on the Georgia General Assembly, he helped ignite the path toward the GOP boom of the 2000s, fueled by a boom in suburban Atlanta. Towards the end of Isakson’s career, some of those suburbs reverted to Democrats.

“A gifted businessman and retail politician, Johnny paved the way for the modern Republican Party in Georgia, but he never let partisan politics get in the way of doing the right thing,” Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said in a statement.

Isakson suffered modest setbacks before reaching the Senate. In 1990, he lost the race for governor to Democrat Zell Miller. In 1996, Guy Millner defeated him in the Republican primaries in the Senate before Millner lost to Max Cleland of the Democratic Party.

Many observers argue that Isakson is not tough enough to have an abortion. During the main race, Isakson ran a television ad in which he said that while he was against government funding or promoting abortion, he would “not vote to amend the Constitution to make women and their doctors become criminals”.

“I trust my wife, my daughter, and the women of Georgia to make the right choices,” he said.

Then he changed his mind about the controversial issue.

Isakson’s jump into Congress occurred in 1998, when the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Newt Gingrich decided not to run for re-election. Isakson won a special election in 1999 to fill the seat in suburban Atlanta.

He eventually made it to the US Senate in 2004 defeating Democratic candidate Denise Majette with 58% of the vote. He worked with Senior Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss, a close friend and classmate from the University of Georgia.

Isakson was considered the earliest favorite to succeed Republican Sonny Perdue in the governor’s mansion in 2010. But he chose to seek a second term in the Senate instead. While there, he gained a reputation as a moderate, though he rarely split with his party on key ballots.

He was the leading negotiator in 2007 on immigration legislation that President George W. Bush supported but was ultimately abandoned after it faced strong opposition from the right. Chambliss and Isakson were booed at a Georgia Republican convention that year for their immigration stance.

Isakson advocated for limited tuition vouchers and played a key role in formulating Bush’s signature education plan, the No Child Left Behind Act. He also pushed for an unsuccessful compromise bill on the politics of stem cell research to expand research funding while ensuring that human embryos are not harmed.

That approach to the deal fell out of favor with many voters, but Isakson’s lineage is still present in Georgia politics. State Attorney General Chris Carr served as the senator’s chief of staff. “When I was a young man just starting out in politics, I wanted to be like Johnny Isakson,” Carr said Sunday.

Democratic Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock said “all of Georgia” is grieving Isakson’s death. Warnock, who took over Isakson’s old seat after defeating Republican Kelly Loeffler in the January delivery, has a special connection with Isakson, who attended an annual ceremony in honor of the late father. Father Martin Luther King Jr. at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. The pulpit of the church belonged to King and later became Warnock’s. Warnock also continued Isakson’s tradition of an annual barbecue lunch for all senators.

“Isakson’s public service model is an example for future generations of leaders of how to stand by principle and make progress while operating with compassion and a compromise heart,” Warnock said today. Sunday.

Isakson graduated from the University of Georgia in 1966 and joined his family-owned company, Northside Realty in Cobb County, a year later. It has grown into one of the largest independent residential real estate brokerages in the country during his more than 20 years in office. Isakson also served in the Georgia National Air Defense Force from 1966 to 1972.

He is survived by his wife, Diane, whom he married in 1968; three children and nine grandchildren.


Bynum reports from Savannah, Georgia. Former Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson dies aged 76

Aila Slisco

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