U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., announced Wednesday that he will resign at the end of this year because of health issues related to his Parkinson’s Disease.
Isakson, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2013 and publicly disclosed the condition ahead of his 2016 re-election, has tendered his resignation to Gov. Brian Kemp. The resignation is effective Dec. 31.
“I am leaving a job I love because my health challenges are taking their toll on me, my family and my staff,” Isakson said in a statement. “My Parkinson’s has been progressing, and I am continuing physical therapy to recover from a fall in July. In addition, this week I had surgery to remove a growth on my kidney.
“In my 40 years in elected office, I have always put my constituents and my state of Georgia first. With the mounting health challenges I am facing, I have concluded that I will not be able to do the job over the long term in the manner the citizens of Georgia deserve. It goes against every fiber of my being to leave in the middle of my Senate term, but I know it’s the right thing to do on behalf of my state.
“I look forward to returning to Washington on Sept. 9 when the Senate goes back into session. And after Dec. 31, I look forward to continuing to help the people of Georgia in any way I can and also helping those who are working toward a cure for Parkinson’s.”
Isakson had been hospitalized earlier this year after a fall at his apartment in Washington D.C. He had returned to Georgia to recover from his injuries over the summer.
The senator’s office said he also had a 2-centimeter renal cell carcinoma removed from one of his kidneys at WellStar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta Monday.
Meanwhile, the attention will shift in the coming months to who Kemp will appoint someone to serve as Isakson’s replacement until an election can be held next fall to fill the remainder of the term.
That means that both of Georgia’s seats in the Senate will now be on the November 2020 ballot. Sen. David Perdue’s seat was already up for reelection next year.
Kemp said he will appoint Isakson’s replacement “at the appropriate time.”
Whoever steps into Isakson’s seat will be replacing a senator who has considerable clout in the Senate. Isakson serves as the chairman of the Senate’s Ethics and Veterans’ Affairs committees.
He has served several other roles over his many decades of public service, including stints in the Georgia House and Senate, a period as chairman of the State Board of Education and tenure as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“No one embodies the heart and soul of Georgia more than Johnny Isakson,” said Governor Kemp. “Our state and country have been immeasurably blessed by his leadership in the Georgia General Assembly, U.S. House, and U.S. Senate. Senator Isakson’s list of accomplishments on behalf of the state that he loves is long and revered, but what Georgia should be most thankful for is the high standard that Johnny held as a true gentleman, a fighter for his constituents, a trusted advocate for our nation’s veterans, and one of the greatest statesmen to ever answer the call of service to our country.”
Other officials currently, and previously, in state government also praised Iaskson after his decision to step down was announced.
“The loss of Johnny Isakson from public life will leave a void in Georgia which is beyond comprehension,” Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston said. “While I respect his reasons, I feel a tremendous sense of personal sadness – Johnny is a mentor, role model and friend. Over a distinguished career in the Georgia House, Georgia State Senate, State Board of Education, U.S. House and U.S. Senate, Johnny Isakson demonstrated that civility and reasonableness are virtues that will never go out of style.”
Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said, “Over the course of his career, Senator Isakson consistently put Georgians first and embodied what it means to be a workhorse and not a show horse in Washington. He built the Republican Party of Georgia from the ground up, and I am so thankful for his conservative leadership.”
Leaders in the Senate also heaped praise upon Isakson.
“Johnny’s deep and abiding love for Georgia and this nation have animated his years of service, making him not only a first-rate legislator, but also a man of the highest integrity,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said.
“Simply put, Johnny has been a legislative workhorse. His steady hand and commitment to working across the aisle have done so much to advance the priorities for his fellow veterans and the people of Georgia. His humor, humility, and enduring faith have made him a role model to all of us who have had the pleasure to work with him.”
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, said, “One of the many fine adjectives to describe Johnny Isakson is a word not used enough in the halls of Congress these days: kind. Johnny is both a diligent & thoughtful legislator. Independent of any party or politics, everyone will miss him as he announces his retirement.”
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