Breaking: Member of Senate House dies at 76
Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican who earned a reputation for bipartisan co-operation as a US senator from 2005 to 2019, has died. He was 76.
The Georgia governor, Brian Kemp, confirmed the death on Sunday.
In a statement, the Republican said: “Georgia has lost a giant, one of its greatest statesmen and a servant leader dedicated to making his state and country better than he found it.
“Johnny Isakson personified what it meant to be a Georgian. Johnny was also a dear friend … as he was to so many.”
Isakson, whose real estate business made him a millionaire, spent more than three decades in Georgia political life.
In the US Senate from 2005, he became known as an effective, behind-the-scenes consensus builder. His views on flashpoint issues such as abortion became more conservative, however, as Georgia politics moved right.
In 2015, Isakson disclosed that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He remained in office until the end of 2019, retiring two years before the end of his term.
That year, the Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, a ruthless political warrior, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “If you had a vote in the Senate on who’s the most respected and well-liked member, Johnny would win probably 100 to nothing. His demeanor is quite different from what most people expect of politicians.”
On Sunday, announcing Isakson’s death, the Associated Press called him “affable”. The Washington Post went for “courtly”.
Ross Baker, a congressional scholar at Rutgers University in New Jersey, told the Post Isakson was “a transitional figure … the person who set the tone for debate, who was a facilitator rather than a legislative innovator.
“His bipartisan brand of politics harks back to a different era in American politics. With his leaving the Senate, a very important link to the past [has been] lost.”
Isakson was succeeded in the Senate by Kelly Loeffler, another Republican. But she lost the seat to Raphael Warnock in 2020, as Georgia turned Democratic blue in an election which cost the GOP control of the Senate and provoked political apoplexy in Donald Trump, the loser in the presidential contest.
On Sunday the other serving Georgia US senator, the Democrat Jon Ossoff, said: “Senator Isakson was a statesman who served Georgia with honor. He put his state and his country ahead of self and party, and his great legacy endures. Alisha and I will keep [the former senator’s wife] Dianne and the Isakson family in our prayers.”