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Georgia Democrats choose state Sen. Nikema Williams to run for John Lewis’ House seat

The Georgia Democratic Party has named state party chair and state Sen. Nikema Williams as its nominee to replace Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., in the 5th Congressional district, three days after the civil rights leader’s death. The party cited Williams’ years of public service and “commitment to justice” as the reasons she was chosen.

READ MORE: John Lewis, civil rights icon and congressman, dies at 80

More than 130 people applied with the party to be the replacement nominee on the ballot in November. Williams, who recused herself from the GDP executive committee’s decision-making process, was selected Monday afternoon from a list of finalists that had been decided by, among others, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Stacey Abrams, former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives.

Williams was chosen over four other finalists, including State Rep. Park Cannon; Atlanta city Councilman Andre Dickens; Robert Franklin, former president of Morehouse College; and James “Major” Woodall, president of the Georgia NAACP.

“As a Party, we remain committed to upholding Congressman Lewis’ legacy of fighting for justice and for free and fair elections for every Georgian,” Georgia Democratic Party executive director Scott Hogan said in a statement. “We acknowledge that despite our best efforts here, both law and circumstance require us to use a system that falls short of a full district-wide election to ensure that we have a strong Democratic nominee on the ballot in November. While this system was not perfect and we were forced to use what the Secretary of State and Georgia law demands, we know that we have the absolute best candidate in Nikema Williams who will fight hard for Georgians.”

Just more than a month before his death, Lewis overwhelmingly won the Democratic primary as he sought his 18th term in Congress. His primary opponent, Barrington Martin, who got less than 15 percent of the vote, was one of the applicants who sought to be the new Democratic nominee, but he was not selected as a finalist. He accused the state party of “blatantly disrespecting” the more than 19,000 people who voted for him last month.

“THERE WAS ONLY ONE with the courage to stand toe to toe against Congressman Lewis,” he said on Twitter. “The fact that I wasn’t selected, not only shows you the problem with our system but shows you who really cares about the people.”

Williams will face Republican Angela Stanton King in November, but the district has not been represented by a Republican in nearly 50 years.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has not yet announced the date of a special election to determine who will fill the remaining months in the current term, which ends in January. After the state struggled with long lines during the June primary and fewer polling locations because of the coronavirus pandemic, the governor could wait to hold a special election until the same day as the general election in November, leaving the seat vacant until then.