WASHINGTON - Georgia Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson has Parkinson's disease, but says the condition won't alter his decision to seek re-election in 2016 or his ability to serve if he wins a new term.
The 70-year-old lawmaker announced his diagnosis in a statement accompanied by a note from his doctor that described the current symptoms as mild. Dr. Thomas Holmes wrote that Isakson is fully capable of running again and serving another term.
"While I am facing this health challenge head on, I have wrestled with whether to disclose it publicly," Isakson said in his released statement. "I recently shared the news with my three grown children and my senior staff a couple of months ago. Their support, along with the steadfast support of my wife Dianne, helped me to take this step today. In the end, I decided I should handle my personal health challenge with the same transparency that I have championed throughout my career."
Isakson, in his second Senate term, is heavily favored to win a third next year in his strongly Republican state. Democrats have yet to field a challenger. He won 58 percent of the vote in his most recent campaign, in 2010.
In his statement, Isakson said he was diagnosed with Parkinson's last year, and takes two medicines for the disease. He walks with a slowed, shuffling gait, which he said is a result of the illness.
"My diagnosis has not impacted my ability to represent the state of Georgia in the U.S. Senate," Isakson said in his statement. "I am serving on five Senate committees and am the only Republican serving as chairman of two Senate committees. I am busier and have more responsibility today than ever before in my political career, and I couldn't be happier about that. I remain devoted to public service, to my state and to my constituents. I am eager to take my record of results to the voters of Georgia as I run for re-election in 2016."
Isakson chairs the Committee on Veterans Affairs, as well as the ethics panel.
As part of Isakson's statement, Dr. Holmes said:
"As a practicing neurologist, I have treated many patients with various chronic neurological diseases, and I encourage all them to pursue their livelihoods with vigor and enthusiasm. With this in mind, I have encouraged Senator Isakson to do the same."