Georgia’s Democratic Party picked its own party chair, Nikema Williams, a state senator, to run in Georgia’s 5th Congressional District, the seat held by the late civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis. Lewis died Friday after a battle with cancer.
“The presidential administration changes in January, and we need to hit the ground running with a qualified, experienced person in this position,” Bobby Fuse, chairman of the Democratic Party in Georgia’s 2nd, said on a Monday conference call announcing his support for Williams. “We do not need to wait another two years to have an election for a permanent congressman, because we’ll lose two years’ seniority.”
Williams’ nomination was the culmination of a two-day mad dash to put forward a candidate for Lewis’ seat. The party announced Monday morning that it was considering five local leaders and politicians: Park Cannon, a progressive queer state representative, Andre Dickens, an Atlanta city council member, Robert Franklin, the president of Morehouse College, a historically Black men’s college in Atlanta, James “Major” Woodall, the president of the Georgia NAACP, and Williams.
Georgia’s election code requires the party’s executive committee to offer a substitute candidate to the Secretary of State by 4 p.m. on the business day following the actual knowledge of the death of the candidate.
The state’s Democratic Party held a single-day open call for candidate applications Sunday, and received a total of 131 applicants that were reviewed by a committee of local politicians and party officials. A separate executive committee in the party, which Williams was on, met Monday, to nominate a single candidate.
Williams abstained from the voting and the five finalists were given the opportunity to address the party’s executive committee, however the final tally among party committee members was overwhelming for their own chair. Reps. Hank Johnson and Lucy McBath both voted for Williams.
Among those on the nominating committee were Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, former Democratic leader of the Georgia House and gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, as well as state party members and former leaders, like Jason Carter, a former state senator and 2014 gubernatorial candidate.