Inside Johnny Isakson’s emotional decision to retire

ajc | 9/14/2019 | Staff
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WASHINGTON —

Georgia U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson returned to his beloved Senate this week for the first time since announcing his retirement armed with a secret plan.

Republican - Decades - Capitol - Hill - Reputation

The three-term Republican, who over two decades on Capitol Hill has honed a reputation as an affable dealmaker, is determined to pull off one last major bipartisan policy coup before his Dec. 31 departure date. On which thorny policy issue, he refused to say.

“I’m getting close to something I can tell you about, that I’ve been working on for some time,” Isakson said with a grin on Monday evening. “I’m not quite there yet.”

Isakson - Resolve - Agonizing - Choice - Month

Isakson’s renewed political resolve obscured the agonizing choice he made late last month to leave a job he loves in the face of mounting health problems.

The decision surprised his closest allies. Save for a small circle of longtime advisers, he even kept most of his staff in the dark until shortly before the news went public. It instantly upended Georgia politics by teeing up a second U.S. Senate race for November 2020, a contest that some believe could determine party control of the chamber.

Decision - Interview - Atlanta - Journal-Constitution - Isakson

Opening up about his decision in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Isakson, 74, said making the call to step down “was simple but it was hard.”

“My mother used to tell me listen to your body. And my body was telling me that I was getting to the point where I couldn’t fulfill 100% of my commitment to the job and do it right,” he said.

Parkinson - Disease - System - Disorder - Isakson

Ever since he announced in 2015 that he suffered from Parkinson’s disease, a progressive nervous system disorder, Isakson’s team became adept at batting down stories about his future. He intended to finish up his term through 2022, they said, and some aides floated the possibility of him running for a fourth term as...
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