COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia said he’s retiring at the end of the year as he struggles with Parkinson’s disease.
Isakson is a three-term republican. The 74-year-old released a statement Wednesday stating his health challenges are taking their toll on his family and staff. His Parkinson’s disease is progressing and he’s had to have a growth removed from his kidney.
Governor Brian Kemp will appoint a replacement until a special election next year. Isakson’s retirement means Georgia will have two Senate seats up for grabs in the 2020 election.
Isakson is the only elected official in Georgia to serve in both the state Senate and House, as well as the U.S Senate and House. 2020 will be the first time Georgians have not seen him in office since 1976.
After more than 40 years in office, people in Columbus, both Republican and Democrat, said they are sad to see Isakson go.
Alton Russell is the chairman for the Columbus-Muscogee County Republican Party.
“He’s been around a long time, but he is a true public servant," said Alton Russell, chairman for the Columbus-Muscogee County Republican Party. "I can say I think Georgia is going to miss him and our country is going to miss him.”
Laura Walker represents the Muscogee County Democratic Committee as Chairperson.
“It really is an amazing feat what he’s done," said Laura Walker, chairperson of the Muscogee County Democratic Committee. "Irregardless of party, he’s just served the people of Georgia at many different levels and really made a difference, so we wish him the best of luck.”
After 43 years in office, Isakson issued a statement Wednesday saying, “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.” His statement cites health challenges including Parkinson’s and a recent fall as his reasons for departure.
“You have to take care of yourself," Walker said. "If you don’t watch out for yourself, nobody else is going to.”
“And I appreciate him very much because he’s been around in a lot of places, and a lot of situations and we we’re lucky to have him.” Russell added.
Isakson was first elected to public office in 1976 serving as a representative in the Georgia House. 40 years later in 2016 he was elected to an unprecedented third term in the U.S. Senate.
Now, Kemp is tasked with appointing a replacement to serve in Isakson’s seat until the 2020 election. At that time, voters will choose who will serve the remaining two years of Isakson’s term. As for who locals think could take the seat...
“Chris Carr, who is our attorney general right now," Russell guessed. "Chris used to be his chief of staff.”
“I have really no idea," Walker said. "So, I’m looking forward to that announcement and so we understand what they’re about. Who knows, maybe they will represent all of their constituents.”
Georgia’s other U.S. Senator, David Purdue, said, “When Johnny Isakson speaks, people listen. He is a true statesman, and it shows every day.”
U.S. Congressman Drew Ferguson added, ‘We owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude for his leadership, courage, and the class which he has embodied each and every day while working tirelessly for the betterment of our great state."
Isakson’s resignation is effective Dec. 31.