Johnny Isakson was born in Atlanta, and resides in Marietta, Ga. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Georgia.
Isakson served in the Georgia House from 1977 to 1990 and the Senate from 1993 to 1995. He was appointed to the state school board in December 1996 and served until December 1998.
He won a special election in 1999 to fill the U.S. House seat vacated by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He was elected to a full two-year term in 2000 and was re-elected in 2002.
Isakson was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004, filling the seat vacated by retiring incumbent Sen. Zell Miller.
Isakson and his wife, Dianne, have three children.
Johnny Isakson took over Zell Miller's seat in the U.S. Senate, but their styles could not be more different. Where Miller moved naturally to center stage, Isakson often prefers to do his work behind the scenes. Where the temperamental Miller was a bomb-thrower, Isakson's first choice is to work toward consensus.
Isakson is seen as a moderate in today's GOP, and has worked hard to remind his constituents of his conservative voting record, which closely mirrors that of his friend and fellow Georgia senator, Saxby Chambliss.
Isakson cruised to re-election in 2010 over Democratic challenger Michael Thurmond, and he remains in a relatively comfortable position within Georgia political circles.
Georgia's junior senator did not endorse any candidate in the 2012 GOP presidential primary, though he later called for Republicans, including conservative Georgians who supported a candidate other than Republican nominee Mitt Romney, to back the former Massachusetts governor.
In June 2012 the Senate passed a bill, backed by Isakson and Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, that would strengthen economic and security ties between the United States and Israel. The bipartisan bill would reaffirm the U.S. commitment to Israel and American support for the Mideast ally's right to self-defense. The bill would extend current loan guarantees to Israel that expire in late 2012 and authorize the transfer of obsolete or surplus defense material from the United States to Israel.
Isakson was outspoken in 2010 in his opposition to President Barack Obama's agenda, including the 2009 approximately $800 billion economic stimulus package and the March 2010 health care reform bill. Isakson has also called for more border patrol troops to deal with illegal immigrants from Mexico and has called for tax cuts for wealthy Americans to remain in place.
His conservative credentials aside, some staunch conservatives have attacked Isakson's abortion position as insufficient. Isakson said he personally opposes abortion but in a 1996 U.S. Senate primary race against Guy Millner, he ran a high-profile television advertisement that featured his wife, Diane, and his daughter.
"I don't believe our government should fund, teach or promote abortion," he said in the spot. "But I will not vote to amend the Constitution to make criminals of women and their doctors. I trust my wife, my daughter and the women of Georgia to make the right choice."
Isakson's political career was at rock bottom after the 1996 Senate race, which came six years after he lost a gubernatorial race to Miller. He returned to real estate and considered himself retired from politics until Miller, by then in his second term, asked Isakson to chair the new school board he was assembling. Less than three years later, Isakson found himself in the U.S. Congress, a spring board to the Senate in 2004.
Isakson has supported instant background checks at gun shows, much to the chagrin of some of his more conservative foes, but he points out the National Rifle Association still gives him top ratings.
He supports limited school vouchers and it is education policy where he has really left his mark. He played a key role in crafting President George W. Bush's signature education plan, the No Child Left Behind Act.
Isakson pushed a compromise bill in 2007 on stem cell research. It would have expanded funding for stem cell research while also ensuring that human embryos aren't harmed. Isakson's bill would have permitted research on cells derived from amniotic fluid and placentas and from embryos that have died naturally. That wasn't included in the final version. Isakson voted against the measure, which Bush vetoed.
Committee Assignments: Foreign Relations; Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; Select Ethics; Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Veterans' Affairs
American Conservative Union Rating: 75
Americans for Democratic Action Rating: 25
Johnny Isakson is not up for re-election in 2014.
(Last updated by The Associated Press on June 9, 2014.)