Johnny Isakson

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Johnny Isakson
Johnny Isakson.jpg
United States Senator
from Georgia
Assumed office
January 3, 2005
Serving with Saxby Chambliss
Preceded by Zell Miller
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's 6th district
In office
February 23, 1999 – January 3, 2005
Preceded by Newt Gingrich
Succeeded by Tom Price
Member of the Georgia Senate
from the district
In office
Member of the Georgia House of Representatives
from the 21st district
In office
January 3, 1977 – January 3, 1991
Succeeded by James Mills
Personal details
Born John Hardy Isakson
(1944-12-28) December 28, 1944 (age 69)
Atlanta, Georgia
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Dianne Davison
Children John Isakson
Kevin Isakson
Julie Isakson
Residence Marietta, Georgia
Alma mater University of Georgia (B.B.A.)
Occupation Real Estate Executive
Religion Methodist
Military service
Service/branch Air National Guard
Years of service 1966–1972
Unit Georgia

John Hardy "Johnny" Isakson (born December 28, 1944) is the junior United States Senator from Georgia, in office since 2005, and a member of the Republican Party. Previously, he 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 elections.

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 November 2004 after conservative 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 large margins. He is serving his second term after re-election to the Senate in 2010. He will become the senior Senator when Saxby Chambliss retires in 2014.

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

Isakson was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Julia (née Baker) and Edwin Andrew Isakson, a Greyhound bus driver.[1] 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.[2][3]

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.[4] Isakson enrolled at the University of Georgia, where he became a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon social fraternity.[5] Shortly after graduating from UGA, he opened the first Cobb County office of Northside Realty, a prominent Atlanta-area real estate firm. He 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.[6]

Early political career (1974–1998)[edit]

He said that like his earliest days in real estate, the first few years in politics was an "absolute failure." In 1972, he ran for a seat on the Cobb County Commission and lost because it was a solidly Democratic area.[7]

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[8] and 1988.[9] 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.[10] In the general election, he was defeated by Democratic Lieutenant Governor Zell Miller 53%–45%.[11] 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. He ran on criticism of Republican President George H.W. Bush saying that it was a "Reagan Democratic recession."[12] In 1996, he decided not to run for re-election to a second term and instead run 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 Democrat 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%.[13] Therefore, per Georgia law he was forced into a primary runoff election. Millner defeated Isakson in the runoff 53%–47%.[14] Millner lost to Democrat Max Cleland.

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 five seats in the midterm elections. Amid the ruckus, 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 raised $1 million and put in $500,000 of his own wealth and spent far more than any of his five challengers. He won the election with 65% of the vote, up forty points ahead of the second place finisher Christina Fawcett Jeffrey.[15]


He won re-election to his first full term with 75% of the vote.[16]


He won re-election to his second full term with 80% of the vote.[17]

War in Iraq

In October 2002, Isakson voted in favor of the authorization of force against the country of Iraq Iraq War.[18] Isakson spoke on the floor of House, regarding the authorization of force, saying, "Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my support for H.J. Res. 114. My support comes after many hours of personal consideration of the facts that are clear, as well as what may be the consequences of military action against Saddam Hussein. I have concluded that clear and present threat of military force is the only way to forge both a meaningful and enforceable resolution in the United Nations Security Council and hopefully a peaceful disarmament and destruction of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq. If the U.N. falters or Hussein continues his deception, then the United States must act. President Bush has made a clear case against Iraq, and last night he answered the questions that all of us have heard from our citizens in our districts. I respect and understand the concerns that some of those in this Chamber have regarding preemption and a military strike. I understand those who speculate on the consequences of military action against Iraq. In my mind I fear the consequences of a failure to preempt the use of weapons of mass destruction far more. On September 11, 2001, terrorists made an unprovoked attack using airplanes as weapons of mass destruction and killed over 3,000 innocent men, women, and children in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. Saddam Hussein praised them. In the Middle East, the families of suicide bombers are rewarded with cash by Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein considers mass murder an acceptable practice. If there were ever a case for preemption to be made, Saddam Hussein has made it himself."

Committee assignments[edit]

He was a member of the U.S. House Education Committee.[19]

U.S. Senate (2005–present)[edit]



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 quickly picked up the endorsements of much of the Republican establishment in Georgia, as well as that of President George W. Bush. He also picked up support of social conservatives including the Georgia Christian Coalition, in part due to his rightward turn on social issues since 1990 (see below). Miller also endorsed Isakson and campaigned for him. 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."[20]


Since his election to the House, Isakson shifted to the right on social issues. He now identifies as pro-life and anti-gay marriage. On the Issues, a non-partisan Web site that rates candidates, labels Isakson "a libertarian-leaning conservative."[21] When he ran in the 6th District in 1999, Isakson largely ignored the issue of abortion; however, in 2003–2004, in his campaign for the Senate, he took the same position as President Bush, saying we needed to "create a culture of life" in America.[22]

Isakson has been given an "A" rating by the National Rifle Association, the "Hero of the Taxpayer" award by Citizens Against Government Waste, and a "92" rating on a scale of 100 by the Christian Coalition of America. He also received a "100" rating from the American Conservative Union. National Journal recently rated him the 7th most conservative Senator in the Senate. In the Senate, Isakson is currently working to oppose the Castle-DeGette Stem Cell Bill by offering an alternative that does not allow for the destruction of a human embryo. This alternative legislation recently garnered a veto-proof 70-vote majority.

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

Isakson favors tougher border security to address the immigration issue.[23] He is credited for developing the "Isakson Principle," which denies the legalization of status to any illegal immigrant or the creation of a temporary worker program unless the Secretary of Homeland Security certifies ("triggers") to the president and Congress that measurable border security provisions are in place.[24] However, Isakson was criticized by advocates of immigration reduction for working on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, which was criticized by some as an amnesty.[25]

Contrary to his critics' assertions, Isakson played a role only in drafting the border security sections of the bill (the previously mentioned "Isakson Principle") and stated from the beginning that he was withholding his support for the bill until the final product was produced.[25] His vote of "Nay" on the final motion to end debate amounted to a vote to kill the bill.[26] He and Senator Chambliss also called on President Bush to send an emergency supplemental border security spending bill to the Congress.[27]

Committee assignments[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Isakson and his wife Dianne have three children: John, Kevin and Julie.

Electoral history[edit]

Georgia's 6th congressional district: results 1998–2002[28]
Year Republican Votes Pct Democratic Votes Pct
1999 special election[29] Johnny Isakson* 51,548 65.1% Other candidates 27,665 34.9%
2000 Johnny Isakson 256,595 75% Brett DeHart 86,666 25%
2002 Johnny Isakson 163,525 80% Jeff Weisberger 41,204 20%

* Newt Gingrich resigned his term on January 3, 1999, and Isakson won the special election to succeed him. Candidates from all parties appeared on the same ballot; their party affiliations were not listed.

Georgia Senator (Class III) results: 2004–2010[28]
Year Democratic Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd party Party Votes Pct
2004 Denise L. Majette 1,287,690 40% Johnny Isakson 1,864,202 58% Allen Buckley Libertarian 69,051 2% *
2010 Mike Thurmond 996,516 39% Johnny Isakson 1,489,904 58% Chuck Donovan Libertarian 68,750 3%

*Write-in and minor candidate notes: In 2004, write-ins received 31 votes and Matthew Jamison received 7 votes.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Post Store (2004-11-04). "GEORGIA Johnny Isakson (R)". Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  2. ^ "Floor Statement on Immigration Reform Remarks as Delivered on the Senate Floor". Johnny Isakson. April 13, 2005. Retrieved 2007-02-20. 
  3. ^ Johnny Isakson ancestry
  4. ^ "Veterans in the US Senate 109th Congress" (PDF). Navy League. Archived from the original on 2007-06-28. Retrieved 2006-12-09. 
  5. ^ "Greeks in the 113th Congress". North-American Interfraternity Conference. Retrieved September 2, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Johnny Isakson Senate". Johnny Isakson Biography. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  7. ^ Keating, Dan (2011-12-23). "Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.)". The Washington Post. 
  8. ^ Our Campaigns - GA State House 021 Race - Nov 06, 1984
  9. ^ Our Campaigns - GA State House 021 Race - Nov 08, 1988
  10. ^ Our Campaigns - GA Governor - R Primary Race - Jul 17, 1990
  11. ^ Our Campaigns - GA Governor Race - Nov 06, 1990
  12. ^ The Telegraph-Herald - Google News Archive Search
  13. ^ Our Campaigns - GA US Senate - R Primary Race - Jul 09, 1996
  14. ^ Our Campaigns - GA US Senate - R Runoff Race - Aug 06, 1996
  15. ^ Our Campaigns - GA District 6 - Special Election Race - Feb 23, 1999
  16. ^ Our Campaigns - GA District 6 Race - Nov 07, 2000
  17. ^ Our Campaigns - GA District 6 Race - Nov 05, 2002
  18. ^ [1] House roll call vote
  19. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  20. ^ "Isakson apologizes for calling voters ‘unwashed’". Atlanta Journal Constitution. 17 June 2010. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Johnny Isakson's Position Statement on Social Values". Retrieved 2010-07-16. 
  23. ^ "Johnny Isakson's Position Statement on Immigration". Archived from the original on 2007-04-25. Retrieved 2007-05-20. 
  24. ^ "Johnny Isakson, United States Senator from Georgia". 2006-07-09. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  25. ^ a b "Johnny Isakson, United States Senator from Georgia". 2007-01-19. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  26. ^ "Johnny Isakson's Key Votes". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-07-16. 
  27. ^ "Isakson, Chambliss Send a Message on Immigration to President Bush". Retrieved 2010-07-16. 
  28. ^ a b "Election Statistics". Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Retrieved 2007-08-08. 
  29. ^ "2/23/99 - Special Election for 6th U.S. Congressional District". Georgia Secretary of State. 

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Newt Gingrich
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's 6th congressional district

February 23, 1999 – January 3, 2005
Succeeded by
Tom Price
United States Senate
Preceded by
Zell Miller
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Georgia
January 3, 2005 – present
Served alongside: Saxby Chambliss
Party political offices
Preceded by
Guy Davis
Republican Party nominee for Governor of Georgia
Succeeded by
Guy Millner
Preceded by
Mack Mattingly
Republican Party nominee for United States Senator from Georgia (Class 3)
2004, 2010
Succeeded by
Current nominee
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
John Thune
R-South Dakota
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
David Vitter