ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia's U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson kicked off the 2016 campaign on Monday, announcing his re-election bid surrounded by top Republicans at the state Capitol.
Isakson, who'll be seeking his third term, told about 200 supporters Monday that he wants to keep fighting to build up Georgia's infrastructure, pass a federal balanced budget amendment and reduce spending. Gov. Nathan Deal introduced Isakson, praising him as a "stable conservative leader."
Isakson, who turns 70 next month, remains popular among Republicans and easily won re-election in 2010. It remains to be seen who among Democrats might challenge him and whether he will face any opposition in the Republican primary.
This year, Democrats had hoped Michelle Nunn would have claimed Georgia's other Senate seat held by retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss, but she lost by nearly 8 points in the Nov. 4 election to Republican businessman David Perdue.
Two Republican congressmen who ran for Senate this year — Jack Kingston of Savannah and Phil Gingrey of Marietta — were among the crowd of Isakson supporters at Monday's event. Isakson said he was prepared either way.
"When you are a candidate on the ballot in Georgia, whether it's Republican or Democrat, you always expect opposition both in the primary and the general," Isakson told reporters. "We just made our announcement early so we'd be prepared for whatever comes."
DuBose Porter, who chairs the state Democratic Party, said he's confident the Democratic nominee will be well positioned to challenge Isakson and receive a boost from core constituencies in a presidential election year. He declined to speculate on names, but did say Nunn and state Sen. Jason Carter, who lost a bid for governor, ran strong campaigns that would justify another statewide race.
While this year's Senate race was focused largely on President Barack Obama's policies, the campaign in two years will likely be much different. Isakson said he'd like to see a focus on tax reform and the federal deficit but acknowledged his record will also be up for scrutiny.
"All you have to do is Google my name and find out everything I have done and everything I haven't done," Isakson said. "It's a long record that reflects my commitment to my state and honesty and integrity."
Isakson, when asked about a pledge by Perdue to pursue a bill establishing term limits, said he trusts the voters to decide.
"We have term limits every two years or every six years or every four years. That's the best term limit you could possibly have," Isakson said.
Longtime supporter Carolyn Ragan, a retired teacher from Hawkinsville, was among those who traveled to Atlanta to support Isakson. She praised the senator for always having Georgia's interests at heart.
"It's not about him. It's about the people who sent him there," Ragan said, adding she wasn't concerned about any Democratic opposition Isakson might face. "We have enough of a Republican base in Georgia that it's going to be hard for any Democrat."
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