Isakson has easy path in U.S. Senate primary

[private]The closest thing to a slam dunk in next Tuesday’s primary is U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s quest for the Republican nomination.

Isakson should easily win the right to run for a third term against two lesser-known opponents who’ve been swamped in the fundraising competition — Isakson, with more than $5.97 million, has outraised both of them by a margin of more than 380-1.

Both of his opponents do have experience in running for statewide office, however.

Derrick Grayson, who’s amassed $15,186, ran in the 2014 Senate GOP primary and finished sixth out of seven candidates with 1 percent of the vote.

Mary Kay Baccalao — she has reported $8,746 in contributions — ran third in the Republican primary for state school superintendent two years ago with 15 percent of the vote.

Isakson evidently is feeling so confident of victory that he blew off the Atlanta Press Club debate that was televised statewide on GPTV, leaving Bacallao and Grayson to make their case against an empty chair.

The only thing resembling an issue in this campaign has been Isakson’s medical condition.

When he last ran in 2010, Isakson, who will be 72 in December, twice was rushed to the hospital for medical problems that included an irregular heartbeat, a bacterial infection, and a blood clot in his right calf. In spite of the concerns raised about his health, Isakson easily defeated Democratic nominee Michael Thurmond.

Last year, Isakson revealed he had been diagnosed in 2013 with Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that primarily affects the motor system in its early stages but can lead to dementia in the advanced stages.

Grayson has raised the question of whether Isakson’s medical condition would compel him to resign early in a third term, giving Gov. Nathan Deal the opportunity to appoint a replacement senator.

“I have seen Mr. Isakson and so have others,” Grayson said in a news release. “He has a very serious illness. While I pray for his well-being, it is a fact that if he is re-elected, he will retire not long thereafter and Nathan Deal will appoint his replacement.”

The day after Grayson made that statement, Isakson’s campaign said he would not appear in the GPTV debate and cited Grayson’s record as a “convicted felon,” a fact that Grayson acknowledged in the 2014 Senate race.

Medical issues aside, Isakson is expected to advance to the general election against the winner of the Democratic primary.

There are three unknown candidates in that primary, but the state Democratic Party’s choice is Jim Barksdale, a wealthy Atlanta investment adviser who is self-funding his campaign.  Of the $1,146,597 Barksdale reported to the Federal Election Commission, $1.1 million is money he loaned his campaign.

The other two contenders are Cheryl Copeland, a Hiram project manager who has raised $9,115, and John Coyne of Atlanta, for whom the FEC website shows no disclosure report.

Barksdale has largely avoided the media since qualifying for this race in March, but he has ginned up some name recognition by running TV ads that feature him wearing his campaign’s fashion symbol, a newsboy cap.

© 2016 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: GOP primary , Jim Barksdale , Johnny Isakson , Senate race