© 2020 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Georgia State Sen. Nikema Williams To Replace Rep. John Lewis On November Ballot

Georgia state Sen. Nikema Williams confers with a colleague on the floor of the Georgia Senate in February.
Georgia state Sen. Nikema Williams confers with a colleague on the floor of the Georgia Senate in February.

Georgia Democratic Party officials have selected state Sen. Nikema Williams to replace the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis on the November ballot to represent the state's 5th Congressional District.

Williams, who is also chair of the state's Democratic Party, easily secured enough votes Monday to replace Lewis, the towering Democrat and civil rights icon, who died from pancreatic cancer complications on Friday. He was 80.

Lewis had represented the majority-Black and overwhelmingly Democratic district, which includes Atlanta, since 1987.

The vote came the same day that Lewis' colleagues on Capitol Hill honored him with a moment of silence.

"We are all deeply saddened by the loss of our colleague," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a letter addressed to all House members Monday. "All of us who served with John know that he always worked on the side of the angels. Now he is with them. May he rest in peace."

Ahead of the final vote Monday afternoon, Georgia party officials said an executive committee whittled down a list of 131 applicants who answered the party's open call for candidates.

The late Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., stands near a statue of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in October. Lewis died on Friday at 80.
Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images
The late Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., stands near a statue of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in October. Lewis died on Friday at 80.

The group of five finalists included Williams, state Rep. Park Cannon, Atlanta City Council member Andre Dickens, former Morehouse College President Robert Franklin and Georgia NAACP President James Woodall.

Williams was thought by many to be the front-runner for the seat. She said ahead of the vote she was abstaining from casting a ballot, which took place over Zoom due to coronavirus safety protocols.

Even with her abstention, she received 37 of a possible 41 total votes, party officials said in a statement afterward. Cannon received two votes and Woodall a single vote.

Democrats faced a tight deadline of Monday afternoon to appoint a replacement nominee for Lewis, who had won the Democratic nomination once again for the seat last month. Williams will face GOP nominee Angela Stanton-King, a reality TV star and author whom President Trump pardoned for her role in a car theft ring.

The Democratic Party of Georgia was given until 4:30 p.m. to inform the state of its plans, according to a statement on the secretary of state's website.

"As our state mourns the loss of a great Georgian, the law demands that we move quickly to elect the next representative from the 5th Congressional District," Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said.

"Congressman Lewis played a pivotal role in our nation's history to ensure access to the ballot box, and voters can honor his legacy by participating in our democracy as they decide who should represent them in Congress," he added.

The statement also said that Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, will call a special election to fill the remainder of Lewis' term, which expires in January.

The special election must be called within the first 10 days of the vacancy, and the election must be 30 days after that, according to the statement.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.