There’s been another shake-up in the halls of Congress. As the United States prepares for the 2020 elections, Republican Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson has announced that he’s resigning, citing health problems stemming from Parkinson’s Disease. He says that his resignation will take effect at the end of this year. At present, it’s not immediately clear what the future of his seat might be, although until a special election can be called, any temporary appointee will no doubt be a Republican roughly in line with Isakson ideologically.
‘I am leaving a job I love because my health challenges are taking their toll on me, my family and my staff. My Parkinson’s has been progressing, and I am continuing physical therapy to recover from a fall in July. In addition, this week I had surgery to remove a growth on my kidney.’
Isakson is not the only recent Republican Senator from the southeastern United States to resign due to health problems. In early 2018, Mississippi’s Thad Cochran did the same, and about a year later, he passed away. He was replaced by Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith, who won the special election to serve the remainder of Cochran’s final term following an appointment to the seat in between his resignation and that election. That term ends in 2020, and the race for the seat’s next full term is rated by the Cook Political Report as having a “Likely Republican” outcome.
A similar situation has been unfolding in Arizona, where first that state’s own former Senator Jon Kyl and then former fighter pilot Martha McSally were appointed to serve in the late John McCain’s Senate seat after he died from cancer. The special election to fill out the remainder of McCain’s final term is getting underway in these upcoming 2020 elections, and the Cook Political Report rates that race as a toss-up. Former astronaut Mark Kelly is challenging McSally; besides his time in space, he’s also the husband of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who’s worked as an advocate for gun control following a near-death experience at the hands of a shooter.
Overall, the 2020 Senate map is favorable to Democrats, at least compared to the 2018 one. This time around, Republicans have to defend a full 22 seats, three of which are rated as a toss-ups. Democrats only have to defend 12 seats, only one of which — Doug Jones’s in Alabama — is considered a toss-up. If they can hold onto that and win the Republican Party’s toss-ups, they’ll become the Senate majority party.
There are a significant number of currently Democrat-held House seats that the Cook Political Report considers toss-ups, but their leading margin in the House is currently substantial, so they can stand to lose a few. Only five currently GOP-held ones are considered toss-ups.
However these elections go, their winners will be operating in the shadow of whoever’s in the White House. Currently, numerous polls have Donald Trump losing by significant margins to essentially every leading Democratic presidential candidate, although some have garnered larger winning margins than others.
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