Johnny Isakson

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Johnny Isakson
Johnny Isakson official Senate photo.jpg
United States Senator
from Georgia
In office
January 3, 2005 – December 31, 2019
Preceded byZell Miller
Succeeded byKelly Loeffler
Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee
In office
January 3, 2015 – December 31, 2019
Preceded byBernie Sanders
Succeeded byJerry Moran
Chair of the Senate Ethics Committee
In office
January 3, 2015 – December 19, 2019
Preceded byBarbara Boxer
Succeeded byJames Lankford
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's 6th district
In office
February 23, 1999 – January 3, 2005
Preceded byNewt Gingrich
Succeeded byTom Price
Member of the Georgia Senate
from the 21st district
In office
January 11, 1993 – January 6, 1997
Preceded byBill English[1]
Succeeded byRobert Lamutt[2]
Personal details
John Hardy Isakson

(1944-12-28) December 28, 1944 (age 75)
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Dianne Isakson
EducationUniversity of Georgia (BBA)
Net worth$9.7 million (2018)[3]
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Air Force
Years of service1966–1972
RankStaff Sergeant
UnitGeorgia Air National Guard
Isakson as a State Representative in 1977
Isakson greeting President Ronald Reagan in 1986
Isakson with President George H. W. Bush in 1990

John Hardy Isakson (born December 28, 1944) is an American politician who served as a United States Senator from Georgia from 2005 to 2019. A member of the Republican Party, he previously represented Georgia's 6th Congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1999 to 2005.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Isakson served in the Georgia Air National Guard (1966–1972) and graduated from the University of Georgia. He opened a real estate branch for Northside Realty and later served 22 years as the company's president. After a failed bid for the Georgia House of Representatives in 1974, he was elected in 1976. He served seven terms, including four as minority leader. Isakson was the Republican candidate for governor of Georgia in 1990, but lost. Two years later, he was elected to the Georgia Senate and served one term. He unsuccessfully ran in the Republican primary in the 1996 U.S. Senate election.

After 6th District Congressman and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich resigned, Isakson ran in the February 1999 special election to succeed him, winning by a 40-point margin. He ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004 after Democratic incumbent Zell Miller opted not to run for re-election. With the backing of much of Georgia's Republican establishment, he won both the primary and general elections by wide margins. He became the senior Senator from Georgia when Saxby Chambliss retired in 2015. On August 28, 2019, midway through his third term, Isakson announced, citing his deteriorating health, that he would resign from the Senate effective December 31, 2019.[4] He was succeeded by Kelly Loeffler on January 6, 2020 who will fill the seat until November, (Under Georgia law, whoever replaces Isakson will have to run in November 2020 to serve out the last two years of his term).[5][6]

Early life, education, and real estate career[edit]

Isakson was born on December 28, 1944, in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Julia (née Baker) and Edwin Andrew Isakson, a Greyhound bus driver,[7] who later established an Atlanta real estate firm.[8] His paternal grandparents were of Swedish descent, and his paternal grandfather was born in Östersund. His mother is of mostly British ancestry, and her family has been in the American South since the colonial era.[9][10] He received an honorary degree in Doctor of Laws from Oglethorpe University in 2009.[11]

He currently lives in the nearby suburb of Marietta. He served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966 to 1972, leaving service as a staff sergeant.[12] Isakson enrolled at the University of Georgia, where he became a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon social fraternity.[13] Shortly after graduating from UGA, he opened the first Cobb County office of Northside Realty, a prominent Atlanta-area real estate firm that his father, Ed, helped to establish. Isakson became company president in 1979, a post he held for 22 years, during which Northside became the biggest independent real estate company in the Southeast and one of the largest in America.[14]

Early political career (1974–1998)[edit]

Georgia House of Representatives[edit]

In 1974, Isakson first ran for the Georgia House of Representatives in an eastern Cobb County district and lost. He ran again in 1976 and won. He served seven terms in the House. He won re-election unopposed in 1984[15] and 1988.[16] In the last four terms (1983–1990) he was the Republican Minority leader. In 1988, he was Co-Chair for U.S. Senator Bob Dole's presidential primary campaign.

1990 gubernatorial election[edit]

He was the Republican candidate for Governor of Georgia in 1990. He won the Republican primary with 74% of the vote in a four candidate field.[17] In the general election, he was defeated by Democratic Lieutenant Governor Zell Miller 53%–45%.[18] His campaign was managed by Jay Morgan while Miller's campaign was managed by James Carville. Miller ran on a pledge to start a state lottery and use the revenue for public schools. Isakson proposed a ballot referendum on the lottery.

Georgia Senate[edit]

In 1992, he was elected to the Georgia Senate. In 1996, he decided not to run for re-election to a third term and instead ran for the United States Senate.

1996 U.S. Senate election[edit]

In 1996, he ran in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democratic U.S. Senator Sam Nunn. Isakson finished second in the primary election with 35% of the vote, but the winner Guy Millner, a millionaire businessman, failed to get a majority of the vote getting 42%.[19] Therefore, per Georgia law he was forced into a primary runoff election. Millner defeated Isakson in the runoff 53%–47%.[20] Millner lost to Democrat Max Cleland.

In December 1996, Isakson was appointed head of the State Board of Education by Miller.[21]

U.S. House of Representatives (1999–2005)[edit]



In November 1998, 6th District U.S. Congressman and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich faced a revolt in his caucus after the Republicans lost four seats in the midterm elections. Amid the turmoil, Gingrich announced on Friday after the Tuesday elections not only that he would not run for a third term as Speaker, but he would also not take his seat for an eleventh term beginning in January 1999. Isakson ran for the seat in a special election in February. He won the election with 65% of the vote, up forty points ahead of the second-place finisher Christina Fawcett Jeffrey.[22]


He won re-election to his first full term with 75% of the vote.[23]


He won re-election to his second full term with 80% of the vote.[24] In October 2002, Isakson voted in favor of the authorization of force against the country of Iraq.[25]

President George W. Bush and Senator Isakson aboard Air Force One in 2005.

During his tenure in the House of Representatives, Isakson served on the Committee on Education and the Workforce, aiding President Bush in passing the No Child Left Behind Act.[7] As a Representative, Isakson sponsored 27 bills.[26] He was a member of the U.S. House Education Committee.[27]

U.S. Senate (2005–2019)[edit]

Isakson with Neil Gorsuch in 2017
Isakson with Brett Kavanaugh in 2018



In early 2003, conservative Democratic U.S. Senator Zell Miller—who had been appointed to fill out the term of the late Republican Senator Paul Coverdell and elected to the post in his own right in 2000—declared his intention not to run for a full term in the Senate in 2004. Isakson immediately entered the race. He faced 8th District U.S. Congressman Mac Collins and businessman Herman Cain in the primary.

It was initially thought Isakson would face a difficult primary since many socially conservative Republicans still felt chagrin at Isakson's declared support for abortion rights in 1990. However, he won the Republican primary with 53%, with Cain a distant second and Collins third. In the general election, he easily defeated the Democratic candidate, 4th District Congresswoman Denise Majette, by 18 points. Isakson's election marked the first time in Georgia's history that both of the state's U.S. Senate seats had been held by Republicans, as Saxby Chambliss had won the other seat by defeating Nunn's successor, Max Cleland, two years earlier.


In 2010, he was unopposed in the primary. Isakson won re-election with 58% of the vote in 2010, defeating State Commissioner of Labor Mike Thurmond. In 2010, Isakson apologized for referring to voters as "the unwashed" in off-hand comments, saying he "didn't mean anything derogatory by it."[28]


Isakson was re-elected for a third term in 2016. He announced his resignation effective the end of 2019.


As a Senator, Isakson has sponsored over 130 bills.[29]

Committee assignments prior to retirement[edit]

Political positions[edit]

When compared to his Republican peers in the Senate, Isakson is rated as being close to the average level of conservativeness.[31] As of 2014, Isakson had a lifetime rating of 84.25 by the American Conservative Union.[32] He received a "Hero of the Taxpayer" award by Citizens Against Government Waste in 2011.[33] In the first session of the 115th United States Congress, Isakson was ranked the 12th most bipartisan Senator by the Bipartisan Index, a metric created by The Lugar Center and Georgetown's McCourt School of Public Policy to assess congressional bipartisanship. [34]


Isakson is pro-life, except in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the mother is in danger.[35]


In July 2019, Isakson was one of eight senators to introduce the Agricultural Trucking Relief Act, a bill that would alter the definition of an agricultural commodity to include both horticultural and aquacultural products and promote a larger consistency in regulation through both federal and state agencies as part of an attempt to ease regulatory burdens on trucking and the agri-community.[36]


In 2011, Isakson voted to limit the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.[37] In 2013, he voted for a concurrent resolution creating a point of order which would make it harder for Congress to put a price on carbon.[38][39] In a series of roll call votes attached to debate about the Keystone Pipeline on January 21, 2015,[40] he voted against Amendment 87[41] by Senator John Hoeven that climate change is real and human activity contributes to climate change, and against Amendment 58 by Senator Brian Schatz,[42] that human activity "significantly" contributes to climate change. In 2015, he voted against the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan.[43]

Gun law[edit]

Isakson had an "A" rating by the National Rifle Association in 2013.[44]

In 2017, Isakson stated that while he does support concealed carry nationwide, he does not support campus carry, stating that it is "not the appropriate thing to do."[45]

In February 2018, in response to the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, Isakson stated that "We have to do everything we can within our powers to make sure it never happens again." [46]


Isakson voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and has since voted over 60 times in favor of ending it.[47]


Isakson favors tougher border security to address the immigration issue.[48] In 2019, he voted to support President Trump's national emergency declaration.[49]

Veteran's affairs[edit]

Being the chairman on the committee on Veteran Affairs, Isakson had qualms with President Trumps twitter comments about Sen. John McCain, and made statements in McCains defense towards President Trump, quoted as "America deserves better, the people deserve better, and nobody—regardless of their position—is above common decency and respect for people that risk their life for your life."[50]

Personal life[edit]

Isakson and his wife, Dianne, have been married since 1968. They have three children and eight grandchildren.

In June 2015, he disclosed that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, and that the diagnosis would not affect his 2016 re-election plans.[51] On August 28, 2019, Isakson announced that he would resign from his seat in the U.S. Senate effective December 31, 2019 (roughly 3 years prior to the date his term was scheduled to end), citing health reasons.[52]

Electoral history[edit]

1990 gubernatorial election, Georgia
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Zell Miller 766,662 52.89 -17.62
Republican Johnny Isakson 645,625 44.54 +15.05
Libertarian Carole Ann Rand 37,367 2.58 ±0
Majority 121,037 8.35
Turnout 1,449,654
Democratic hold
Georgia's 6th congressional district election (2000)
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Johnny Isakson (Incumbent) 256,595 74.75%
Democratic Brett DeHart 86,666 25.25%
Total votes 343,261 100.00%
Republican hold
Georgia's 6th congressional district election (2002)
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Johnny Isakson (Incumbent) 163,209 79.91%
Democratic Jeff Weisberger 41,043 20.09%
Total votes 204,252 100.00%
Republican hold
2004 Republican Primary Election US Senate[53]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Johnny Isakson 346,765 53.2%
Republican Herman Cain 170,464 26.2%
Republican Mac Collins 134,053 20.6%
2004 United States Senate election, Georgia[54]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Johnny Isakson 1,864,205 57.88% +19.97%
Democratic Denise Majette 1,287,695 39.98% −18.22%
Libertarian Allen Buckley 69,051 2.14% +2.14%
Majority 576,510 17.90%
Turnout 3,220,951
Republican gain from Democratic Swing
Republican primary results[55]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Johnny Isakson (Incumbent) 558,298 100.00%
Total votes 558,298 100.00%
United States Senate election in Georgia, 2010[56]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Johnny Isakson (Incumbent) 1,489,904 58.31% +0.43%
Democratic Michael Thurmond 996,516 39.00% -0.98%
Libertarian Chuck Donovan 68,750 2.69% +0.55%
Independent Steve Davis (write-in) 52 0.00% N/A
Independent Raymond Beckworth (write-in) 24 0.00% N/A
Independent Brian Russell Brown (write-in) 12 0.00% N/A
Majority 493,388 19.31%
Total votes 2,555,258 100.00%
Republican hold
Republican primary results[57]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Johnny Isakson (Incumbent) 447,661 77.50%
Republican Derrick Grayson 69,101 11.96%
Republican Mary Kay Bacallao 60,898 10.54%
Total votes 577,660 100.00%
United States Senate election in Georgia, 2016 [58]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Johnny Isakson (incumbent) 2,135,806 54.80% -3.51%
Democratic Jim Barksdale 1,599,726 41.04% +2.04%
Libertarian Allen Buckley 162,260 4.16% +1.47%
Total votes 3,897,792 100.0% N/A
Republican hold

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Our Campaigns – GA State Senate 21 Race – Nov 03, 1992".
  2. ^ "Our Campaigns – GA State Senate 21 Race – Nov 08, 1994".
  3. ^ "Ranking the Net Worth of the 115th". Retrieved August 5, 2019.
  4. ^ Rogers, Alex; Bradner, Eric; Mattingly, Phil (August 28, 2019). "Georgia Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson to resign at end of year". CNN. Retrieved August 28, 2019.
  5. ^ Foran, Clare. "Republican Kelly Loeffler sworn in as Georgia's newest senator". CNN. Retrieved January 7, 2020.
  6. ^ "After years of public service, Johnny Isakson's Senate career comes to an end". WXIA. Retrieved January 7, 2020.
  7. ^ a b "GEORGIA Johnny Isakson (R)". Washington Post. November 4, 2004. Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  8. ^ "Atlanta roots lie under real estate's family tree". Atlanta Business Chronicle. May 10, 2010.
  9. ^ "Floor Statement on Immigration Reform Remarks as Delivered on the Senate Floor". Johnny Isakson. April 13, 2005. Retrieved February 20, 2007.
  10. ^ Johnny Isakson ancestry
  11. ^ "Honorary Degrees Awarded by Oglethorpe University". Oglethorpe University. Archived from the original on March 19, 2015. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  12. ^ "Veterans in the US Senate 109th Congress" (PDF). Navy League. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 28, 2007. Retrieved December 9, 2006.
  13. ^ "Greeks in the 113th Congress". North-American Interfraternity Conference. Archived from the original on March 27, 2014. Retrieved September 2, 2013.
  14. ^ "Johnny Isakson Senate". Johnny Isakson Biography. Retrieved November 18, 2014.
  15. ^ Our Campaigns – GA State House 021 Race – Nov 06, 1984
  16. ^ Our Campaigns – GA State House 021 Race – Nov 08, 1988
  17. ^ Our Campaigns – GA Governor – R Primary Race – Jul 17, 1990
  18. ^ Our Campaigns – GA Governor Race – Nov 06, 1990
  19. ^ "Our Campaigns – GA US Senate – R Primary Race – Jul 09, 1996". Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  20. ^ "Our Campaigns – GA US Senate – R Runoff Race – Aug 06, 1996". Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  21. ^ Almanac of American Politics 2008, p. 463.
  22. ^ "Official Results of the February 23, 1999 Special Election". Georgia Secretary of State. March 16, 1999. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
  23. ^ "Our Campaigns – GA District 6 Race – Nov 07, 2000". Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  24. ^ "Our Campaigns – GA District 6 Race – Nov 05, 2002". Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  25. ^ [1] House roll call vote
  26. ^ "Representative Isakson's Legislation". Library of Congress. Retrieved December 8, 2014.
  27. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  28. ^ "Isakson apologizes for calling voters 'unwashed'". Atlanta Journal Constitution. June 17, 2010. Archived from the original on June 21, 2010. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  29. ^ "Senator Isakson's Legislation". Library of Congress. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  30. ^ "Subcommittees". Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  31. ^ Parlapiano, Haeyoun Park, Alicia; Sanger-katz, Margot (July 13, 2017). "Republicans Made 4 Key Changes to Their Health Care Bill. Here's Who They Were Trying to Win Over". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 17, 2017.
  32. ^ "Federal Legislative Ratings". American Conservative Union. Retrieved October 13, 2015.
  33. ^ "Chambliss, Isakson named "Taxpayer Hero" by watchdog group". WALB News. October 7, 2011. Retrieved October 13, 2015.
  34. ^ "The Lugar Center – McCourt School Bipartisan Index" (PDF). Washington, D.C.: The Lugar Center. April 24, 2018. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
  35. ^ "Johnny Isakson on Abortion". On the Issues. Retrieved October 13, 2015.
  36. ^ Galford, Chris (July 2, 2019). "Bipartisan Senate effort seeks to ease regulation of agricultural trucking".
  37. ^ "U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 112th Congress – 1st Session, Vote Number 54, 2011-04-06". Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  38. ^ "Detail for 2013 Senate Roll Call Vote 59 | Voter Information Services – vote wisely, live better". Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  39. ^ "U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 113th Congress – 1st Session, Vote Number 59, 2013-03-22". Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  40. ^ Leber, Rebecca (January 21, 2015). "Republican Senators Finally Admit That Climate Change Is Not a Hoax". New Republic. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  41. ^ "U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 114th Congress – 1st Session, Vote Number 11, 2015-01-21". Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  42. ^ "U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 114th Congress – 1st Session, Vote Number 12, 2015-01-21". Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  43. ^ "U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 114th Congress – 1st Session, Vote Number 307, 2015-11-17". Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  44. ^ Christopher, Tommy (April 11, 2013). "21 NRA 'A'-Rated Senators Part Of 68–31 Vote To Defeat Filibuster Of Background Check Bill". Mediaite. Retrieved October 13, 2015.
  45. ^ Harris, Nate. "Senator Isakson speaks out against campus carry". The Red and Black. Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  46. ^
  47. ^ "Health Care – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson".
  48. ^ "Johnny Isakson's Position Statement on Immigration". Archived from the original on April 25, 2007. Retrieved May 20, 2007.
  49. ^ "Isakson Votes to Uphold Trump's Emergency Declaration – News Releases – – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson". Retrieved March 20, 2019.
  50. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: Sen. Johnny Isakson Stands Up for McCain; Unloads on Trump". The Bulwark. March 20, 2019. Retrieved January 7, 2020.
  51. ^ Sen. Johnny Isakson discloses he has Parkinson’s disease (Washington Post article-June 10, 2015)
  52. ^ "GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson to resign at end of year". August 28, 2019.
  53. ^ "United States Senator". Retrieved February 1, 2019.
  54. ^ "United States Senator". Georgia of Secretary of State. December 21, 2005. Retrieved December 3, 2008.
  55. ^ "7/20/2010 – United States Senator, Isakson". Retrieved August 21, 2010.
  56. ^ 11/2/2010 – United States Senator, Isakson
  57. ^ "Official Results". Georgia Secretary of State. Retrieved July 20, 2016.
  58. ^ "General Election November 8, 2016". Georgia Secretary of State. Retrieved December 19, 2016.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Guy Davis
Republican nominee for Governor of Georgia
Succeeded by
Guy Millner
Preceded by
Mack Mattingly
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Georgia
(Class 3)

2004, 2010, 2016
Most recent
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Newt Gingrich
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's 6th congressional district

Succeeded by
Tom Price
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Zell Miller
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Georgia
Served alongside: Saxby Chambliss, David Perdue
Succeeded by
Kelly Loeffler
Preceded by
John Cornyn
Ranking Member of the Senate Ethics Committee
Succeeded by
Barbara Boxer
Preceded by
Bernie Sanders
Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee
Succeeded by
Jerry Moran
Preceded by
Barbara Boxer
Chair of the Senate Ethics Committee
Succeeded by
James Lankford