ATLANTA — U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson announced earlier this month that he would resign his seat before his term ends. The Republican senator has Parkinson's disease; a recent fall "nearly killed" him, he told 11Alive News in an interview Monday at his office. Here are excerpts of what he said.
On his declining health:
"I’m doing the job to the best of my ability, but it's getting harder and harder for me given the Parkinson's to make the travel and the commitments I have to do. (It's) a lot harder to things like button buttons, walk straight and stuff like that. So that time is coming to an end, which is why I announced my retirement three weeks ago. Because it’s only a matter of days or months before I can't do some of the things I’m supposed to do. And when I can’t do them, the people don’t deserve to have me there. They need to have someone there who can. So I thought the best thing for me to do when I recognized what was coming (was) then to make the announcement and do it, rather than stand around and pretend it wasn’t happening."
On leaving public life:
"I didn’t realize it until people started focusing on it, but I’ve been doing this 45 years in the state. And it just seems like yesterday since I started. So it’s been something I’ve enjoyed doing. I’ve loved working. I love solving problems. Like the ant problem in the VA or the Sterigenics problem in Smyrna, whatever it might be. I think a solution is my job. But I know when my abilities don’t match my physical capabilities. And when they don’t, you’ve got to be honest with yourself and everybody else. So I have been in this situation and I’m going to finish on a high (note).
On a Democrat possibly winning his U.S. Senate seat:
"I don’t know what the Democrats are going to do. I know Republicans have a lot of potential candidates that are good. It’s a Republican seat or should be a Republican seat. The suburbs of Atlanta have become very fluid the last couple of elections... and the suburbs have grown. They’ve diversified in ethnicity, in race, in every component imaginable in terms of the population of the seventh and sixth (congressional) districts, which is the (northern) suburbs of Atlanta. It doesn’t surprised me they have changed and they will continue to change over the next couple of elections.
On why he thinks the GOP and Democrats should work to pass a bipartisan immigration bill:
"The public is ready for the Dreamers, for that problem to get solved. The public is ready in south Georgia to have workers to work in the fields. The public is ready in public education to see to it we’re responding to multiple languages that are being spoken in our schools. And every day we put off solving those problems is a day we have another problem down the line. It’s time we did – and it’s time we enforced the law as well. What the president has done, and it’s made some people mad, but he’s actually enforced the laws that we passed – that we said we were going to (use to) enforce the law with a long time ago. We need to just tough it out and do it. Get it done and appropriate the money that’s necessary to get it done and then move it forward to a better day where everybody is recognized for their legal status, the ethnicity is not a stop to them being a citizen of the United States or get a visa, and we get it done in an orderly fashion where we no longer have borders that leak. We have borders that are strong, and ways to get in that are legal and right. I doubt we’ll get anything done on immigration before the end of the year, but we should."