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 Committee on Veterans Affairs
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
Member of the Georgia House of Representatives
from the 21st district
In office
January 3, 1977 – January 3, 1991
Preceded by ???
Succeeded by James Mills
Personal details
Born John Hardy Isakson
(1944-12-28) December 28, 1944 (age 70)
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Dianne Davison
Children John
Alma mater University of Georgia
Religion Methodism
Website Senate website
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch Air National Guard
Years of service 1966–1972
Unit Georgia Air National Guard

John Hardy "Johnny" Isakson (born December 28, 1944) is 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 second term after re-election to the Senate in 2010. He became the senior Senator when Saxby Chambliss retired in 2015.

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 received an honorary degree in Doctor of Laws from Oglethorpe University in 2009.[4]

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

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.[8]

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. He ran on criticism of Republican President George H.W. Bush saying that it was a "Reagan Democratic recession."[13] 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%.[14] Therefore, per Georgia law he was forced into a primary runoff election. Millner defeated Isakson in the runoff 53%–47%.[15] 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.[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] 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."


As a Representative, Isakson sponsored 27 bills, including:[20]

106th Congress (1999-2000)[edit]

  • H.R. 2058, a bill to create a deduction for the estate tax equal to the decedent's Individual retirement account, section 401(k) plans, and certain other retirement savings accounts, introduced June 8, 1999
  • H.R. 3540, a bill to prohibit the employment of blind and visually impaired individuals at sub-minimum wages, introduced January 27, 2000, reintroduced in the 107th Congress as H.R. 881
  • H.R. 5386, a bill to allow for a tax credit to offset conservation expenses for certain conservation organizations, introduced October 4, 2000, reintroduced in the 107th Congress as H.R. 882, in the 109th Congress as S. 2187 and S. 3603, and in the 110th Congress as S. 50

107th Congress (2001-2002)[edit]

  • H.R. 1349, a bill to repeal the limitation on student financial assistance for courses offered through telecommunications, introduced April 3, 2001
  • H.R. 1992, introduced May 24, 2001, which has the text of H.R. 1349 and further promotes education through the internet.

108th Congress (2003-2004)[edit]

  • H.R. 462, a bill to temporarily exempt long-term capital gains from taxation, introduced January 29, 2003
  • H.R. 1579, a bill to allow individuals not connected to the operation, navigation, ownership, or business of the Stad Amsterdam to board the ship in U.S. waters, introduced April 2, 2003. Versions of this bill's provisions were included in the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2003.

Committee assignments[edit]

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

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."[22]


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."[23] 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.[24]

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. Isakson worked to oppose the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act by offering an alternative that does not allow for the destruction of a human embryo. Isakson's bill and the bill he opposed never become law, the latter of which was vetoed by President Bush.

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

Isakson favors tougher border security to address the immigration issue.[25] 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.[26] 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.[27]

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.[27] His vote of "Nay" on the final motion to end debate amounted to a vote to kill the bill.[28] He and Senator Chambliss also called on President Bush to send an emergency supplemental border security spending bill to the Congress.[29] The Isakson Principle has since been included as an integral part of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, which has passed the Senate but has yet to become law.


As a Senator, Isakson has sponsored 94 bills, including:[30]

109th Congress (2005-2006)[edit]

  • S. 2122, a bill to terminate the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), except for provisions relating to Social Security taxation, and allow for the creation of a new tax system, with failure of the creation of a new tax system reauthorizing the IRC, introduced December 16, 2005, reintroduced as S. 2182, reintroduced in the 110th Congress as S. 747 and in the 111th Congress as S. 3047
  • S. 2394, a bill to increase funding for border security agencies, to increase penalties for immigrant smuggling and document fraud, to make more easy the deportation of criminal street gang members, and to allow for local law enforcement authorities to temporarily detain aliens who are removable or illegally in the United States after such alien's sentence completion pending transfer to federal custody, introduced March 9, 2006
  • S. 2688, a bill to allow for a tax deduction for contributions made to a personal philanthropy account, and to exclude such contributions from taxable income, introduced May 1, 2006, reintroduced as S. 3881, reintroduced in the 110th Congress as S. 1568
  • S. 3604, a bill to include syringe destruction devices and other needle disposal methods as covered under Medicare Part D, introduced June 29, 2006, reintroduced in the 110th Congress as S. 1909, in the 111th Congress as S. 1312, in the 112th Congress as S. 725, and in the 113th Congress as S. 672
  • S. 3812, a bill to require indoor tanning bed providers to disclose to consumers of any adverse health effects resulting from using indoor tanning beds, introduced August 3, 2006
  • S. 4056, a bill to create national standards for work in laboratories that includes requiring proficiency in cytology, introduced November 15, 2006. S. 4056's companion bill was H.R. 6133.

110th Congress (2007-2008)[edit]

  • S. 51, a bill to develop techniques for the isolation, derivation, production, or testing of pluripotent stem cells that have the flexibility of embryonic stem cells so long as the techniques do not result in viable human embryonic cells being used for research purposes, such cells being destroyed or discarded, or subjecting any human embryonic cell to risk of injury or death greater than what is allowed under federal law for research conducted on fetuses in utero, introduced January 4, 2007
  • S. 330, a bill to expand border security, to revise immigrant visas, and to revise punishments for various crimes committed by aliens, introduced January 18, 2007. Versions of many of this bill's provisions were included in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 and are included in the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013.
  • S. 870, a bill to include home infusion therapy as covered under Medicare Part B, introduced March 14, 2007
  • S. 885, a bill to grant independent pharmacies the same treatment under antitrust laws as bargaining units, and to exempt good faith actions taken under antitrust laws to be subject to criminal sanctions or civil penalties beyond actual damages incurred, introduced March 14, 2007, reintroduced as S. 2161. Versions of this bill's provisions are included in the Empowering Patients First Act.
  • S. 2165, a bill to suspend the Endangered Species Act during droughts that pose significant harm to affected regions and communities, introduced October 16, 2007
  • S. 2566, a bill to create a one-time tax credit for a single-family residence of up to $15,000 of the home's purchase price, introduced January 29, 2008

111th Congress (2009-2010)[edit]

  • S. 169, a bill to require biennial budget resolutions and appropriation bills instead of annual ones, introduced January 8, 2009, reintroduced in the 112th Congress as S. 211 and in the 113th Congress as S. 554
  • S. 253, a bill to extend the first-time homebuyers tax credit to all homebuyers, to increase the credit's value, and to eliminate various limitations on claiming the tax credit, introduced January 15, 2009, reintroduced as S. 1230
  • S. 1238, a bill to allow for nonunion training programs to be included in the Green Jobs program, introduced June 11, 2009
  • S. 1465, introduced July 16, 2009, a bill to require states to recommend the purchasing of liability insurance for child care centers, and to require child care centers to disclose whether the center carries current liability insurance 1) publicly and conspicuously in the service area of the premises of the center, and 2) in a written notice to each child's parents or legal guardian. Child care centers would be required to receive a signature from at least one of the child's parents verifying that he or she has received the notice, and would be required to maintain records of these signatures while the child is receiving care. While this bill has yet to become law, many states, including Georgia, have adopted their own versions of it.[31]

112th Congress (2011-2012)[edit]

  • S. 1280, a bill to revise and create practices, policies, guidelines, and programs to protect Peace Corps volunteers from sexual assault and other forms of violence, and to provide aid to affected individuals, introduced June 27, 2011, signed into law November 21, 2011
  • S. 1571, a bill to replace current academic achievement standards with the incorporation of college and career academic content in secondary schools, to allow for states to adopt different curricula for special needs children, and to implement an intervention strategy (which the bill defines) for poorly performing schools, introduced September 15, 2011
  • S. 1656, a bill to exempt from taxation any withdrawals from any pension or retirement account if such withdrawals are used to make mortgage payments on principal residences, introduced October 5, 2011
  • S. 1963, a bill to dissolve Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and replace them with a Mortgage Finance Agency that would perform similar functions as Fannie and Freddie, and to terminate the Agency after 10 years, introduced December 8, 2011, reintroduced in the 113th Congress as S. 1048
  • S. 3495, a bill to increase coordination and consultation between government development programs and private sector investment, introduced August 2, 2012, reintroduced in the 113th Congress as S. 2831

113th Congress (2013-2014)[edit]

  • S. 559, a bill to establish a trust fund for former hostages held in Iran, with each living former hostage receiving $150,000 plus $5,000 for each day he or she was held hostage in Iran, and each deceased hostage receiving such amounts to his or her estate, and to waive and release all claims made by Iran and the United States arising out of the hostage events, introduced March 13, 2013
  • S. 2546, a bill to repeal the requirement that employers with more than 200 full-time employees that offer enrollment in one or more health benefits plans enroll automatically all new full-time employees in one of those plans, introduced June 26, 2014
  • S. 2663, a bill to create a visa category to allow for up to 15,000 work visas to be issued each fiscal year to South Koreans who work in specialty fields in the United States, introduced July 24, 2014

Current committee assignments[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Isakson and his wife Dianne have three children: John, Kevin and Julie. In June, 2015, he disclosed that he has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, and that the diagnosis will not affect his 2016 re-election plans.[32]

Electoral history[edit]

Georgia's 6th congressional district: results 1998–2002[33]
Year Republican Votes Pct Democratic Votes Pct
1999 special election[34] 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[33]
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. ^ "GEORGIA Johnny Isakson (R)". 2004-11-04. 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. ^ "Honorary Degrees Awarded by Oglethorpe University". Oglethorpe University. Retrieved 2015-03-04. 
  5. ^ "Veterans in the US Senate 109th Congress" (PDF). Navy League. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-06-28. Retrieved 2006-12-09. 
  6. ^ "Greeks in the 113th Congress". North-American Interfraternity Conference. Retrieved September 2, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Johnny Isakson Senate". Johnny Isakson Biography. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  8. ^ Keating, Dan (2011-12-23). "Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.)". The Washington Post. 
  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. ^ The Telegraph-Herald - Google News Archive Search
  14. ^ Our Campaigns - GA US Senate - R Primary Race - Jul 09, 1996
  15. ^ Our Campaigns - GA US Senate - R Runoff Race - Aug 06, 1996
  16. ^ Our Campaigns - GA District 6 - Special Election Race - Feb 23, 1999
  17. ^ Our Campaigns - GA District 6 Race - Nov 07, 2000
  18. ^ Our Campaigns - GA District 6 Race - Nov 05, 2002
  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. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Johnny Isakson's Position Statement on Social Values". Retrieved 2010-07-16. 
  25. ^ "Johnny Isakson's Position Statement on Immigration". Archived from the original on 2007-04-25. Retrieved 2007-05-20. 
  26. ^ "Johnny Isakson, United States Senator from Georgia". 2006-07-09. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  27. ^ a b "Johnny Isakson, United States Senator from Georgia". 2007-01-19. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  28. ^ "Johnny Isakson's Key Votes". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-07-16. 
  29. ^ "Isakson, Chambliss Send a Message on Immigration to President Bush". Retrieved 2010-07-16. 
  30. ^ "Senator Isakson's Legislation". Library of Congress. Retrieved December 8, 2014. 
  31. ^ Benfield, Jillian (March 21, 2012). "Anthony DeJuan Boatwright Laid to Rest". WJBF. Retrieved December 8, 2014. 
  32. ^ Sen. Johnny Isakson discloses he has Parkinson’s disease (Washington Post article-June 10, 2015)
  33. ^ a b "Election Statistics". Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Retrieved 2007-08-08. 
  34. ^ "2/23/99 - Special Election for 6th U.S. Congressional District". Georgia Secretary of State. 

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
Most recent
United States 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
United States Senate
Preceded by
Zell Miller
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Georgia
Served alongside: Saxby Chambliss, David Perdue
Preceded by
Bernie Sanders
Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee
Preceded by
Barbara Boxer
Chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
John Thune
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
David Vitter