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Monday, January 24, 2022

Former Georgia Republican US Senator Johnny Isaacson dies

by Jeff Amy and Russ Bynum | The Associated Press

ATLANTA – Johnny Isaacson, a friendly Georgia Republican politician who rose from the ranks of the state legislature to become a US senator, known as an effective, behind-the-scenes consensus builder, died on Sunday. He was 76 years old.

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

“He was a great man and I will miss him,” said John Isaacson.

Johnny Isaacson, whose real estate business made him a millionaire, spent more than four decades in Georgia political life. In the Senate, he was the architect of a popular tax credit for first-time home buyers he said would help bolster the struggling housing market. As chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, she worked to expand programs to offer more private health care options for veterans.

Isaacson’s famous motto was, “There are two kinds of people in this world: friends and future friends.” This approach made him highly popular among colleagues.

“Johnny was one of my best friends in the Senate,” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said Sunday. “But the amazing thing about him was that at any given time, about 98 other senators had felt the same way. His infectious warmth and charisma, his generosity and his integrity made Johnny one of the most admired and beloved people in the Capitol. made.

In 2015, while seeking a third term in the Senate, Isaacson revealed that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, a chronic and progressive movement disorder that had left him with significantly slower, shuffling gait. Soon after winning re-election in 2016, he underwent a scheduled surgery on his back to correct a spinal degeneration. He often relied on a cane or wheelchair in later years.

In August 2019, not long after fracturing four ribs while falling in his Washington apartment, Isaacson announced he would retire at the end of the year with two years remaining in his term.

In a farewell Senate speech, he pleaded for bipartisanship at a time of bitter split between Republicans and Democrats. He cited his long friendship with Atlanta Democrat and civil rights hero, U.S. Representative John Lewis, as examples of two people willing to put the party aside to work on common problems.

“Let’s solve the problem and then see what happens,” Isaacson said. “Most people who name people and point fingers are people who don’t have a solution themselves.”

Lewis, who died last year, saluted Isaacson on the House floor in 2019, saying, “We found a way to always be together and do the work that people deserve.”

After the speech, Lewis went to hug an avid Isaacson, saying, “I’ll come to see you, brother.”

A native of Atlanta, Isaacson failed in 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 in Georgia to defeat the Democratic incumbent. That same year Jimmy Carter was elected president. Isaacson served 17 years in the State House and Senate. Always in the minority in Georgia’s general assembly, he helped ignite the path toward GOP dominance of the 2000s, inspired by Atlanta’s suburban boom. By the end of Isaacson’s career, some of those same suburbs were swinging back towards the Democrats.

Brian Kemp of Georgia Gov. said in a statement, “As a businessman and a gifted 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.” Let it come.”

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Isaacson suffered a humble setback before ascending the Senate. In 1990, he lost the gubernatorial race to Democrat Zell Miller. In 1996, Guy Milner defeated him in a Republican primary for the Senate, before Milner lost to Democrat Max Cleland.

Many observers blamed Isaacson for not being strict enough on abortion. In the primary race, Isaacson 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 criminals”. “

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

He later changed his mind on the controversial issue.

Isaacson’s jump to Congress came about in 1998 when Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the US House, decided not to seek re-election. Isaacson won the 1999 special election to fill the suburban Atlanta seat.

He eventually made it to the US Senate in 2004 when he defeated Democrat Dennis Maget by 58% of the vote. He served with Georgia Senior Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a close friend and classmate of the University of Georgia.

Isaacson was seen as a prohibitive early favorite to succeed Republican Sonny Perdue at the governor’s mansion in 2010. But he opted to seek a second term in the Senate. While there, he developed a reputation as a moderate, although he rarely split with his party over major votes.

He was a key negotiator on immigration law in 2007, which President George W. Bush supported, but it was eventually abandoned after strong resistance from the right. Chambliss and Isakson were incensed that year at a Georgia Republican Party convention over their immigration stance.

Isaacson supported limited school vouchers and played a major role in drafting Bush’s signature education plan, the No Child Left Behind Act. He also pushed a failed settlement bill on the politically charged issue of stem cell research, which would have expanded research funding while ensuring that human embryos were not harmed.

The deal has fallen in favor of many voters, but Isaacson’s lineage continues to exist in Georgia politics. State Attorney General Chris Carr was the former senator’s chief of staff. “Starting out in politics when I was young, I wanted to be like Johnny Isaacson,” Carr said on Sunday.

Democratic Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock said “all of Georgia” is saddened by Isaacson’s death. Warnock, who took Isaacson’s old seat after defeating Republican Kelly Loeffler in the January runoff, had a special connection to Isaacson, who attended an annual service in honor of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. The pulpit of the church belonged to the Kings and later became that of Warnock. Warnock also continues Isaacson’s tradition of having an annual barbecue lunch for all senators.

“The model of public service is an example for future generations of leaders to stand on principle and make progress while ruling with a heart for compassion and compromise,” Warnock said on Sunday.

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