Johnny Isakson

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Johnny Isakson
Johnny Isakson official Senate photo.jpg
United States Senator
from Georgia
Assumed office
January 3, 2005
Serving with David Perdue
Preceded by Zell Miller
Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee
Assumed office
January 3, 2015
Preceded by Bernie Sanders
Chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee
Assumed office
January 3, 2015
Preceded by Barbara Boxer
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
Chairman of the Georgia Board of Education
In office
January 6, 1997 – February 26, 1999
Member of the Georgia Senate
from the 21st district
In office
January 11, 1993 – January 6, 1997
Member of the Georgia House of Representatives
In office
January 10, 1977 – January 14, 1991
Personal details
Born John Hardy Isakson
(1944-12-28) December 28, 1944 (age 73)
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Dianne Davison
Children 3
Education University of Georgia (BA)
Website Senate website
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Air Force
Years of service 1966–1972
Unit Georgia 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 serving as the senior 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 third term after re-election to the Senate in 2016. He became the senior Senator when Saxby Chambliss retired in 2015.

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,[1] who later established an Atlanta real estate firm.[2] 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.[3][4] He received an honorary degree in Doctor of Laws from Oglethorpe University in 2009.[5]

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.[6] Isakson enrolled at the University of Georgia, where he became a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon social fraternity.[7] 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.[8]

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[9] and 1988.[10] 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.[11] In the general election, he was defeated by Democratic Lieutenant Governor Zell Miller 53%–45%.[12] 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 second 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%.[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.

In December 1996, Isakson was appointed head of the State Board of Education by Miller.[15]

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.[16]


He won re-election to his first full term with 75% of the vote.[17]


He won re-election to his second full term with 80% of the vote.[18]

War in Iraq

In October 2002, Isakson voted in favor of the authorization of force against the country of Iraq.[19]


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.[1] As a Representative, Isakson sponsored 27 bills.[20]

Committee assignments[edit]

He was a member of the U.S. House Education Committee.[21]

U.S. Senate (2005–present)[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."[22]


As a Senator, Isakson has sponsored over 130 bills.[23]

Current committee assignments[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.[24] As of 2014, Isakson had a lifetime rating of 84.25 by the American Conservative Union.[25] He received a "Hero of the Taxpayer" award by Citizens Against Government Waste in 2011.[26] 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. [27]


Isakson is pro-life, except in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the mother is in danger.[28]


In 2011, Isakson voted to limit the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.[29] 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.[30][31] In a series of roll call votes attached to debate about the Keystone Pipeline on January 21, 2015,[32] he voted against Amendment 87[33] by Senator John Hoeven that climate change is real and human activity contributes to climate change, and against Amendment 58 by Senator Brian Schatz,[34] that human activity "significantly" contributes to climate change. In 2015, he voted against the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan.[35]

Gun law[edit]

Isakson had an "A" rating by the National Rifle Association in 2013[36]

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."[37]

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," while declining to support any additional gun control measures such as an assault weapons ban or stricter background checks.[38]


Isakson voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and has since voted over 60 times in favor of ending it.[39]


Isakson favors tougher border security to address the immigration issue.[40] 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.[41]

Personal life[edit]

Isakson and his wife Dianne have three children: John, Kevin and Julie. He has grandchildren as well. Kevin married Katherine James and has three kids (oldest to youngest) Elizabeth, Sarah Katherine, and William. 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.[42]

Electoral history[edit]

U.S. Senate Republican primary election in Georgia, 1996
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Guy Millner 187,177 42%
Republican Johnny Isakson 155,141 35%
Republican Clint Day 83,610 19%
Republican Paul Broun 11,979 3%
Republican Bruce Hatfield 6,117 1%
Republican Dean Parkison 2,631 1%
U.S. Senate Republican primary runoff election in Georgia, 1996
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Guy Millner 169,240 53%
Republican Johnny Isakson 151,560 47%
Georgia's 6th congressional district: results 1998–2002[43]
Year Republican Votes Pct Democratic Votes Pct
1999 special election[44] Johnny Isakson* 51,548 65.1% Other candidates 27,665 34.9%
2000 Johnny Isakson (inc.) 256,595 75% Brett DeHart 86,666 25%
2002 Johnny Isakson (inc.) 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: 2004–2016[43]
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%
2016 Jim F. Barksdale 1,599,726 41% Johnny Isakson 2,135,806 55% Allen Buckley Libertarian 162,260 4%

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

U.S. Senate Republican primary election in Georgia, 2004
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Johnny Isakson 346,765 53%
Republican Herman Cain 170,464 26%
Republican Mac Collins 134,053 21%
U.S. Senate Republican primary election in Georgia, 2016
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Republican Johnny Isakson (inc.) 447,661 78%
Republican Derrick Grayson 69,101 12%
Republican Mary Kay Bacallao 60,898 11%

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "GEORGIA Johnny Isakson (R)". Washington Post. November 4, 2004. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  2. ^ "Atlanta roots lie under real estate's family tree". Atlanta Business Chronicle. May 10, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Floor Statement on Immigration Reform Remarks as Delivered on the Senate Floor". Johnny Isakson. April 13, 2005. Retrieved 2007-02-20. 
  4. ^ Johnny Isakson ancestry
  5. ^ "Honorary Degrees Awarded by Oglethorpe University". Oglethorpe University. Archived from the original on 2015-03-19. Retrieved 2015-03-04. 
  6. ^ "Veterans in the US Senate 109th Congress" (PDF). Navy League. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-06-28. Retrieved 2006-12-09. 
  7. ^ "Greeks in the 113th Congress". North-American Interfraternity Conference. Archived from the original on March 27, 2014. Retrieved September 2, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Johnny Isakson Senate". Johnny Isakson Biography. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  9. ^ Our Campaigns - GA State House 021 Race - Nov 06, 1984
  10. ^ Our Campaigns - GA State House 021 Race - Nov 08, 1988
  11. ^ Our Campaigns - GA Governor - R Primary Race - Jul 17, 1990
  12. ^ Our Campaigns - GA Governor Race - Nov 06, 1990
  13. ^ "Our Campaigns - GA US Senate - R Primary Race - Jul 09, 1996". Retrieved 2018-08-06. 
  14. ^ "Our Campaigns - GA US Senate - R Runoff Race - Aug 06, 1996". Retrieved 2018-08-06. 
  15. ^ Almanac of American Politics 2008, p. 463.
  16. ^ "Official Results of the February 23, 1999 Special Election". Georgia Secretary of State. March 16, 1999. Retrieved April 28, 2018. 
  17. ^ "Our Campaigns - GA District 6 Race - Nov 07, 2000". Retrieved 2018-08-06. 
  18. ^ "Our Campaigns - GA District 6 Race - Nov 05, 2002". Retrieved 2018-08-06. 
  19. ^ [1] House roll call vote
  20. ^ "Representative Isakson's Legislation". Library of Congress. Retrieved December 8, 2014. 
  21. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  22. ^ "Isakson apologizes for calling voters 'unwashed'". Atlanta Journal Constitution. 17 June 2010. Archived from the original on 21 June 2010. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  23. ^ "Senator Isakson's Legislation". Library of Congress. Retrieved July 14, 2017. 
  24. ^ Parlapiano, Haeyoun Park, Alicia; Sanger-katz, Margot (2017-07-13). "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 2017-07-17. 
  25. ^ "Federal Legislative Ratings". American Conservative Union. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
  26. ^ "Chambliss, Isakson named "Taxpayer Hero" by watchdog group". WALB News. October 7, 2011. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
  27. ^ "The Lugar Center - McCourt School Bipartisan Index" (PDF). Washington, D.C.: The Lugar Center. April 24, 2018. Retrieved July 9, 2018. 
  28. ^ "Johnny Isakson on Abortion". On the Issues. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
  29. ^ "U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 112th Congress - 1st Session, Vote Number 54, 2011-04-06." Retrieved 2016-10-02. 
  30. ^ "Detail for 2013 Senate Roll Call Vote 59 | Voter Information Services – vote wisely, live better". Retrieved 2016-10-02. 
  31. ^ "U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 113th Congress - 1st Session, Vote Number 59, 2013-03-22." Retrieved 2016-10-02. 
  32. ^ Leber, Rebecca (2015-01-21). "Republican Senators Finally Admit That Climate Change Is Not a Hoax". New Republic. Retrieved 2016-10-02. 
  33. ^ "U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 114th Congress - 1st Session, Vote Number 11, 2015-01-21." Retrieved 2016-10-02. 
  34. ^ "U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 114th Congress - 1st Session, Vote Number 12, 2015-01-21". Retrieved 2016-10-02. 
  35. ^ "U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 114th Congress - 1st Session, Vote Number 307, 2015-11-17." Retrieved 2016-10-02. 
  36. ^ 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. 
  37. ^ Harris, Nate. "Senator Isakson speaks out against campus carry". The Red and Black. Retrieved 4 October 2017. 
  38. ^
  39. ^ "Health Care - U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson". 
  40. ^ "Johnny Isakson's Position Statement on Immigration". Archived from the original on 2007-04-25. Retrieved 2007-05-20. 
  41. ^ "Johnny Isakson, United States Senator from Georgia". 2006-07-09. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  42. ^ Sen. Johnny Isakson discloses he has Parkinson’s disease (Washington Post article-June 10, 2015)
  43. ^ a b "Election Statistics". Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Archived from the original on 2007-07-25. Retrieved 2007-08-08. 
  44. ^ "2/23/99 - Special Election for 6th U.S. Congressional District". Georgia Secretary of State. Archived from the original on 2008-01-13. 

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
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
Preceded by
Barbara Boxer
Chair of the Senate Ethics Committee
Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
John Thune
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Bob Menendez