Georgia Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson says that health issues are forcing him to retire at the end of 2019, meaning both of Georgia's senate seats will be up for grabs in 2020.
Isakson, a three-term Republican, said he decided to resign because of the “mounting health challenges” that include several falls from Parkinson’s disease and surgery this week to remove a growth on his kidney.
“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 74-year-old Isakson said in a statement.
Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, will appoint a replacement for Isakson, who was elected to a third term by a wide margin in 2016. Though Isakson’s term doesn’t expire until 2022, the timing of his retirement means the seat will be on the ballot next year.
Three Georgia Democrats have already announced challenges to U.S. Sen. David Perdue, a first-term Republican who is up for election in 2020. Isakson’s seat will likely draw several other Democrats, who see Georgia as increasingly competitive.
It’s not yet clear who Kemp will appoint to fill Isakson’s seat, though potential candidates include Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, state Senate Pro Tem Butch Miller, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
Among the potential Democratic contenders for the seat are the Rev. Raphael Warnock, the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church; Jon Ossoff, a former candidate for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District; Jason Carter, the runner-up for governor in 2014; and Michelle Nunn, who was defeated by David Perdue in the 2014 Senate race.
Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost last year’s race for governor and earlier ruled out a 2020 bid for Perdue’s seat, said through a spokesman that she would not run next year. Instead, she said, she’s focused on an expansion of her voting rights initiative.
“While she will not be a candidate herself, she is committed to helping Democratic candidates win both Senate races next year,” said the spokesman, Seth Bringman.
So to recap, Isakson is retiring, Brian Kemp gets to name a replacement for 2020, both Senate seats are up from grabs, and Stacey Abrams isn't running for either one.
Dems just got handed the opportunity of a generation here, a shot at two Senate seats in a rapidly purpling Southern state with a wildly unpopular Trump at the top of the ticket.
Let's see this done, guys.