THOMASVILLE -- U.S. Rep. Johnny Isakson believes standing on his record of public service and business success will elevate him above the crowd in the race for the U.S. Senate. Isakson, a Cobb County Republican and Georgia native, is eyeing the post currently held by Democrat Zell Miller, who is not running for reelection in 2004.

"Even though I've served in elective offices for 25 years -- except the last five -- I was a full-time businessman and only a part-time elected official," Isakson said during a campaign stop at The Plaza Thursday afternoon, "I think people want somebody

who has done that to be the one in the federal government who is making the decisions about occupational safety laws, tax laws, regulatory laws or whatever they might be."

Isakson, who served as the president and CEO of a real estate company for 22 years, is proudest of his stance on taxes.

"In my 25 years, I have never voted for a tax increase -- in the Georgia House, the Georgia Senate or the U.S. Congress," he said. "I don't know of too many other people who can make that statement."

A couple of weeks ago, Isakson introduced a resolution to limited congressional pork -- last-minute, wasteful spending during the annual appropriations process.

"It will allow lawmakers to know exactly which additional projects or expenditures have been added, instead of hiding them in thousands of pages of report language, so they may cast a fully informed vote," he said. "The American taxpayer deserves no less."

Isakson moved to Washington, D.C., after winning a 1999 special election to fill the House seat formerly held by Newt Gingrich. Since then, he has voted with the Republican leadership in Congress 97 percent of the time. He has received 100 percent approval ratings from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

"I started a business, ran a business and made payroll every Friday," Isakson said. "I even had to borrow (money to make payroll) a few times, so I know what the small businessman has to go through."

Isakson said he is also sensitive to farming issues.

"I have continued to support our government helping support our agricultural community," he said. "This is the breadbasket of the world. We have to be sure we can always the fulfill the food, fiber, health and nutritional needs of the American people, and, for that matter, as many people in the world as we can sell our products to.

"I am committed to seeing that our great products of cotton, poultry and peanuts -- three of Georgia's largest -- are accessible and competitive around the world in exports."

In addition to his pro-business views, Isakson is an advocate of changes in education. He is the co-author of President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act. He wants accountability, flexibility and local control in schools.

"I think all of America doesn't want to leave any child behind," Isakson said. "If we have a repetitive and persistent environment where we are not meeting standards, then the federal government will give additional money to the school systems for staff development, professional development of teachers and to help them in the reconstitution of the schools."

In 1976, Isakson became only the 19th Republican to win election to the Georgia legislature. He was the House minority leader from 1983-90 and the chairman of the Georgia State Board of Education from 1996-99.

His GOP opponents are Al Bartel, Herman Cain and Mac Collins. Mary Squires is the only announced Democrat in the race. Potential Democrat challengers include Thurbert Baker, Shirley Franklin, Vernon Jones, Jim Marshall and Andrew Young.

"I think I understand this state as well as anybody running for this office and probably better than most," Isakson said. "I want to be a representative of every person from every corner of this state."

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