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Georgia Dems Choose State Chair to Replace Lewis on Ballot

July 20, 2020 by Dan McCue
In this Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, Tom Perez, left, chair of the Democratic National Committee, and Nikema Williams, chair of the Georgia Democratic Party, speak with reporters, in Atlanta. Georgia Democrats have selected state Sen. Nikema Williams, chair of the state party, to replace Rep. John Lewis on the ballot in November. (AP Photo/Ron Harris, File)

Georgia Democrats have selected state Sen. Nikema Williams, chair of the state party, to replace Rep. John Lewis on the ballot in November.

The executive committee of the Democratic Party of Georgia voted overwhelmingly on Monday for Williams to take Lewis’ spot on the ballot for the Atlanta-area 5th Congressional District.

Lewis died Friday night, several months after he was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer. Since then, state party officials said, 131 aspirants had come forward seeking a shot at the race.

Georgia law requires the party’s executive committee to appointment a nominee who will be on the November ballot, and Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, will also call a special election to fill the rest of Lewis’s current term.

Williams, 41, was chosen from a list of five finalists as the group works to quickly fill the spot in accordance with state law. She is nearly assured of winning in November in the heavily Democratic district.

She beat out state Rep. Park Cannon, Georgia NAACP President James Woodall, Atlanta City Councilman Andre Dickens and Robert Franklin, former president of Morehouse College in Atlanta.

She has served in the state Senate since 2017 and is the current chair of the state Democratic Party.

She will face Republican Angela Stanton-King in November. Stanton-King is a reality TV personality and was pardoned earlier this year by President Donald Trump for her role in a stolen car ring, after serving six months of home confinement in 2007.

The seat will remain empty until Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp schedules a special election. The Republican governor has given no indication when he will hold an election with just over six months left in Lewis’ term.

Lewis was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986 and became known as the “conscience of Congress” throughout his 33-year tenure.

The civil rights icon joined the Freedom Riders at 21 and was the youngest — and last surviving — speaker at the March on Washington in 1963, which he helped organize.

In March 1965, Lewis led the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on a day that became known as “Bloody Sunday” after police brutally beat demonstrators. Lewis’ skull was fractured in the violence.

Lewis won more than 84% of the vote when he last faced a Republican opponent in the district in 2016.

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