Longtime Georgia senator Johnny Isakson dead at 76

Johnny Isakson, a Republican from Georgia who succeeded Newt Gingrich in the House of Representatives, and in 15 years in the Senate was...

Johnny Isakson, a Republican from Georgia who succeeded Newt Gingrich in the House of Representatives, and in 15 years in the Senate was a moderate conservative, often championing bipartisan cooperation, until his resignation for health reasons in 2019, has died Sunday at his Atlanta home. . He was 76 years old.

His death was confirmed by the Isakson Initiative, which he founded to raise funds for research into neurocognitive diseases. He did not specify a cause, but when he resigned, Senator Isakson cited progressive Parkinson’s disease and surgery to remove a growth on a kidney.

Mr Isakson made his fortune as a real estate executive before entering politics at the age of 32. He served 17 years in the Georgia legislature, lost one race for governor and another to succeed Senator Sam Nunn, a retired Democrat who had been in office for 25 years. As a consolation, the governor appointed Mr. Isakson as the head of the state Board of Education. It seemed that his political career was over.

But Mr Gingrich, Georgia’s mercurial chamber speaker, was facing a revolt in his caucus over the midterm election losses. He resigned his post as speaker and announced that he would not be sitting for an 11th term as of January 1999. A month later, Mr. Isakson, appreciated in the state for his legislative and educational work, a won a special election and took Mr. Gingrich’s seat.

In the House, Mr. Isakson joined the education committee and became a strong supporter of President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, which required states to test all elementary and secondary students and to close gaps in reading and math. He was photographed with the President in the Oval Office and aboard Air Force One, and quickly became a national notable.

Affirming his growing popularity, Mr. Isakson was re-elected for his first full term in 2000 with 75 percent of the vote and his second term in 2002 with 80 percent.

In 2003, another opportunity presented itself. Senator Zell Miller, a Georgia Democrat and former governor, chose not to run. Mr. Isakson jumped into the race and easily beat the Democratic candidate, Rep. Denise Majette, for a Senate seat.

“Johnny Isakson’s decisive election to the US Senate completes Georgia’s Republican sweep, giving the state two Republican senators for the first time in modern history,” Georgia Trend Magazine said. Well respected among Democrats and Republicans, cut from the same fabric as longtime Senator Sam Nunn, he has a reputation as a hardworking bridge builder and prefers to spend his time finding common ground. rather than dwelling on the differences. “

True, Mr. Isakson voted with his conservative Republican allies in the vast majority of Senate calls. He opposed the Affordable Care Act and same-sex marriage, and defended gun rights. He identified with abortion opponents and, in 2017, made a dramatic entry into the Senate in a wheelchair to vote against funding for Planned Parenthood. He voted for most of President Donald J. Trump’s cabinet choices.

But his exceptions to the conservative line, although far fewer in number, were often striking. Refusing his party in 2010, he and a dozen other Republican senators helped ratify a strategic arms reduction treaty negotiated by the Obama administration with Russia. It has halved the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers on both sides.

Mr. Isakson, normally a reserved Republican, often disagreed with Mr. Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign, not least because of his refusal to distance himself from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

As the nation paid homage to Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. on his National Day in 2018, members of the King family gathered at his Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and denounced Mr. Trump, who had often used what was widely regarded as racist slurs and who, days earlier, allegedly used shocking terms to describe Haiti and African countries.

Mr. Isakson, in a statement, called on the day “to honor and remember the leadership and wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose legacy continues to make a positive difference in the lives of many in the world. our state and around the world. ” As for Mr. Trump’s comments on Haiti and the African nations, he said, “This is not the kind of statement the leader of the free world should make, and he should be ashamed of himself.

In March 2019, seven months after the senator John mccain dead, Mr Trump was still carrying out posthumous attacks on the Arizona maverick, who had served as a Navy pilot and prisoner of war for five years in Vietnam. Before a military hearing in Lima, Ohio, Mr. Trump, who had never served in the military, blamed him for “a war in the Middle East that McCain pushed too hard.”

“It is deplorable what he said,” Mr. Isakson told Georgia Public Broadcasting. “It will be deplorable in seven months if he repeats it, and I will continue to speak out.”

A few months later, Mr. Isakson announced that he resign from his seat in the Senate at the end of 2019, halfway through his third term, for health reasons.

He had been a leading voice in passing a multibillion-dollar overhaul of the veterans health system and in efforts to resolve partisan struggles over the allocation of relief funds for several natural disasters in 2018. And he remained popular with voters – reelected unopposed in 2010, and in 2016 with 55% of the vote – and with his colleagues in the Senate.

“Not only is Johnny a diligent and efficient lawmaker, he is one of the nicest and most thoughtful senators,” said New York Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, after Mr. Isakson announced his resignation . “Regardless of any party or politics, everyone will miss Johnny.”

John Hardy Isakson was born in Atlanta on December 28, 1944, the son of Edwin and Julia (Baker) Isakson. His father founded Northside Realty in Atlanta, which has grown into one of the nation’s most successful real estate companies.

After high school, Johnny graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration in 1966 from the University of Georgia. He then founded the first Cobb County branch of his father’s real estate company. In 1979, he became president of the company, a position he held for 22 years.

In 1968, he married Dianne Davison. They had three children: John, Julie and Kevin. They all survive him, along with nine grandchildren.

He served 14 years in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1976 to 1990 and three years in the State Senate from 1993 to 1996. His family attended a Methodist church and he taught Sunday School for 30 years.

A social highlight of his years in the Senate was an annual barbecue lunch he hosted for his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. As his 20-year tenure in Washington ended in December 2019, a wave of tributes from voters and Senate colleagues prompted Mr. Isakson to offer advice.

“I am a big supporter of bipartisanship,” he said. “Whether you’re black or white, Republican or Democrat, whatever it is, find a way to find common ground. Give it a chance to work.

“Bipartism”, he added, is “a state of being”.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Longtime Georgia senator Johnny Isakson dead at 76
Longtime Georgia senator Johnny Isakson dead at 76
Newsrust - US Top News
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