Johnny Isakson declines to shy away from Parkinson’s diagnosis

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Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson speaks in Atlanta last year. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

WASHINGTON — Georgia’s three U.S. Senate candidates were sparring over congressional term limits during a recent Atlanta Press Club debate when the discussion dallied into a subject matter incumbent Johnny Isakson’s challengers had studiously tried to avoid.

The Republican’s health had long been the subject of private rumblings before and after he announced in June 2015 that he suffers from Parkinson’s disease.

Isakson’s openness about his diagnosis has functioned as a defense mechanism, banishing most discussions about his ability to fully serve a third term to the political margins. Yet there the Senate candidates were, treading into the politically delicate subject area during the race’s one and only televised debate.

“The best thing for Johnny, his family, our state and our country would be if he were not running right now,” Libertarian Allen Buckley said. “I talked to a lot of his friends who’ll tell me that confidentially.”

Buckley, 56, was not the first of Isakson’s political opponents to bring up the 71-year-old’s health, but he was the first to confront the Republican about it in such a direct and public fashion. His struggle to find a way to address the issue in a tactful yet purposeful way showcases just how politically fraught the road is for Isakson’s rivals who want to broach the subject.

Read the full story here about how Isakson has addressed his Parkinson’s diagnosis on the trail — and how his opponents have reacted.

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