Georgia State Senator Picked to Replace John Lewis on Ballot

Nikema Williams is highly likely to win the heavily Democratic, Atlanta-based district in the November election.

Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee, and Nikema Williams, chair of the Georgia Democratic Party, speak with reporters in Atlanta on Nov. 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Ron Harris, File)

ATLANTA (CN) — Days after the death of longtime Congressman John Lewis, the executive committee of the Georgia Democratic Party chose Nikema Williams, a state senator and chairwoman of the state party, to replace him on the November ballot.

Lewis, a civil rights icon who won the June primary for the 5th Congressional District seat, died Friday at the age of 80 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Faced with a tight deadline mandated by state law, the 44 members of the state Democratic Party’s executive committee convened via video conference Monday afternoon and elected Williams out of a field of five candidates in a nearly unanimous vote to serve as the nominee for the 5th District contest in the general election.

Georgia law required the party to choose a nominee by 4:30 p.m. on the first business day after Lewis’ death.

State Representative Park Cannon received two votes and Georgia NAACP President James Woodall received one vote. Atlanta City Councilman Andre Dickens and Robert Franklin, the former president of Morehouse College, did not receive any votes.

The five candidates were selected from a pool of 131 applicants who threw their hat in the ring for the party’s nomination after Lewis’ death on Friday.

Williams has served as a state senator since 2017 and became the first black woman to chair the Democratic Party of Georgia in 2018.

With the nomination, Williams is highly likely to secure a win against her opponent, Republican Angela Stanton-King, in the heavily Democratic, Atlanta-based district.

Stanton-King, an author and former realty television star, was pardoned by President Donald Trump in February for her 2004 conviction on federal conspiracy charges for participating in a car theft ring.

In her remarks to the committee Monday, Williams called Lewis “a personal hero, friend and mentor.”

“I believe it is imperative that we choose someone with a long track record of fearlessly standing up for what is right and someone who will take on the endless attacks on our rights that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from the Republican Party,” she said. “We need someone who is not afraid to put themselves on the line for their constituents in the same way that Congressman Lewis taught us to. I would be honored if you chose me to be that person.”

“It would be the honor of my life to serve as the voice of the 5th Congressional District,” Williams concluded.

Although Williams will appear on the November ballot, a separate special election will be held to determine who will serve out the remainder of Lewis’ term, which ends in January.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has 10 days to set a date for that election. It is unclear whether Williams will also run in the special election.

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