WASHINGTON (PM) – Georgia Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson declared on Wednesday that he will resign at the end of the year, indicating health concerns.
Isakson, the chair of the Senate’s Ethics and Veterans’ Affairs committees, will retire after decades in elected duty, maintaining the distinction as the only Georgian ever elected to the state House, state Senate, US House, and US Senate.
In a statement, Isakson said he had surgery to remove a growth on his kidney this week and was still recovering from a fall in July that fractured four ribs, all while his Parkinson’s disease continued to progress.
“I am leaving a job I love because my health challenges are taking their toll on me, my family and my staff,” stated Isakson. “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.”
The new vacancy will strengthen the perception that Georgia is one of the most important battleground states in the 2020 election.
The state will have two Senate seats on the ballot. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp will designate a replacement for Isakson until a special election is held in November 2020 that will determine who will fill the rest of his term — the same time Republican Sen. David Perdue is up for reelection. Isakson’s seat will be up for a full, six-year term in 2022.
Some Democrats also hope to make Georgia, as well as fellow Sun Belt states Arizona and Texas, which have also moved quickly leftward in recent years — competitive in the presidential race.
The top Democratic prospect for the Senate race would have been Stacey Abrams.
But Abrams declined to challenge Perdue, opting instead to start a group centered on fighting voter suppression, and declined running for Isakson’s seat after his resignation announcement.