Isakson, a former state legislator and two-time unsuccessful candidate for statewide office,trounced six opponents with 65 percent of the vote because he had both the money and the name recognition to stand out from the pack. But Isakson also did well because "the election was nonpartisan," says Nordan. "This was a special election called by the governor to fill an empty seat." Party identifications did not appear on the ballot as they do in normal general elections, and this was the perfect opportunity for the friendly, inclusive Isakson to make his mark. While it is always difficult to read broad generalities into local elections, it is noteworthy that the first nonpartisan election following Gingrich's departure yielded a politician known for his ability to cooperate with the other side. That's a development Washington might pause to contemplate for a day or two.
Voters in Georgia's suburban Atlanta Sixth District did an about-face this week that could have national implications. The GOP stronghold chose Johnny Isakson -- a well-liked, moderate, bipartisan-minded Republican -- to succeed to the House seat held by the incendiary former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Credit the victory of the new congressman, who was sworn in on Thursday,to a blend of old-fashioned politics and special circumstances. "Newt is history," says TIME reporter David Nordan. "He has been replaced by Isakson, who is his antithesis."