Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
John Hardy Isakson (born December 24 1944), American politician, has been a Republican United States Senator from Georgia since 2005. Previously, he represented Georgia's 6th Congressional district in the House from 1999 to 2004. He was born in Atlanta, Georgia, was educated at the University of Georgia, and was a member of the Georgia House of Representatives (1976-90) and the Georgia Senate (1993-96) before entering the House. In 1996 he ran in the GOP primary for the US Senate seat being vacated by Sam Nunn. Derided as being "too liberal," he lost in the runoff.
In January 1999, 6th District Congressman and House Speaker Newt Gingrich decided not to take his seat for an 11th term, Isakson ran for the seat in a special election in February and won easily. He won the seat in his own right in 2000 and was reelected in 2002. He never faced an enthusiastic or well-funded challenge, as the 6th district is arguably the most Republican district in Georgia.
On July 20, 2004, Isakson avoided a runoff and defeated other Republican contenders (Herman Cain and Mac Collins) to secure the Republican nomination for the Senate seat left vacant by the retirement of Democratic Senator Zell Miller, who defeated Isakson in the race for Governor in 1990. On November 2, 2004, Isakson defeated Representative Denise Majette, a first-term Representative from Georgia's Fourth Congressional District.
Isakson has changed his position on the issue of abortion twice. In 1988, as minority leader in the Georgia state house, he supported a Constitutional Amendment to ban abortion. However, when he ran for Governor of Georgia two years later, he called himself pro-choice on the issue. In 1996, he lost the Republican US Senate primary to businessman Guy Milner largely because of a TV ad Isakson ran indicating he supported abortion rights. He is on record in 1996 making several statements supportive of a woman's right to choose.
When he ran for Congress in 1999, he largely ignored the issue; however, in 2003–2004, in his campaign for the US Senate, he preferred an ambiguous position, saying he had 'respect for human life' and was 'personally opposed to abortion.' At the same time, he insisted that throughout his career he had never changed his position on the issue. This caused many pro-life activists in Georgia to fight against Isakson, including the endorsement of both his opponents in the primary by Georgia Right to Life. However, Isakson's huge fundraising advantage overcame the perception that he had waffled on the abortion issue, and he was able to win the primary without a runoff.
Isakson is often referred to as a RINO by those who opposed his nomination in 1996 and 2004. In fact, pundents such as Fred Barnes have said his predecessor, Zell Miller was more conservative despite being a Democrat.
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