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Georgia U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson announces he has Parkinson’s disease

Despite the diagnosis, the Republican lawmaker plans to run again in 2016

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

georgia mugATLANTA (CFP) — U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson has publicly disclosed that he is suffering from Parkinson’s disease, but the Georgia Republican says he still plans to run for a third term in 2016.

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson

“My diagnosis has not impacted my ability to represent the state of Georgia in the U.S. Senate,” Isakson said in a June 10 statement. “I am busier and have more responsibility today than ever before in my political career, and I couldn’t be happier about that.”

“I am eager to take my record of results to the voters of Georgia as I run for re-election in 2016.”

Isakson, 70, who was first elected to the Senate in 2004, said he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive and potentially debilitating neurological disorder, in 2013. He said he is still in the early stages of the disease “and my main symptoms are the stiffness in my left arm and a slowed, shuffling gait.”

Isakson’s office released a statement from his Georgia-based neurologist, Dr. Thomas Holmes, saying “I believe he is fully capable of continuing to perform his duties as a U.S. senator, and I believe he is fully capable of running for re-election and serving for another term.”

Prior to disclosure of his diagnosis, Isakson was considered a prohibitive favorite for re-election in 2016. Georgia trends strongly Republican in statewide races, and a May poll put Isakson’s approval rating at a whopping 71 percent among state GOP voters.

In his statement, Isakson said he “wrestled” with whether to disclose his illness publicly.

“In the end, I decided I should handle my personal health challenge with the same transparency that I have championed throughout my career,” he said.

Isakson came to the Senate after a long career in the Georgia legislature, where he rose to the position of House minority leader.

After failed campaigns for the Peach State’s governorship in 1990 and the U.S. Senate in 1996, he was elected to the U.S. House in 1999, replacing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich after Gingrich unexpectedly resigned. He rose to the Senate after Democrat Zell Miller decided to retire in 2004.

Isakson is chairman of two Senate committees, Ethics and Veterans Affairs.

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