Politics

Georgia Democrats Choose State Chair to Replace Lewis on Ballot

ATLANTA—The head of Georgias Democratic Party has been chosen to face a Republican reality TV personality in the November contest for the seat of the late Rep. John Lewis, a towering figure who served in Congress for more than 30 years.

The selection of state Sen. Nikema Williams caps a quick and extraordinary process driven by state law where the party had roughly 72 hours to select someone to take Lewis spot on the ballot.

Williams received 37 of 41 votes from the executive committee of the Democratic Party of Georgia on Monday after it heard from five finalists in rapid-fire interviews during a meeting held by video conference because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I have a long career in activism, advocacy, and policy to serve as a strong fighter for our communities and values nationally,” Williams said, with a picture of Lewis on the wall behind her.

She is nearly assured of winning in November in the heavily Democratic 5th Congressional District, which includes parts of Atlanta.

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Sen. Nikema Williams (D-Atlanta) is detained by capitol police during a protest over election ballot counts in the rotunda of the state capitol building, in Atlanta, on Nov. 13, 2018. (John Bazemore/File/AP Photo)

After Lewis death on Friday, the state party quickly opened an online application process for people interested, receiving over 130 applications by Sunday night. That group was then narrowed down to a list of five finalists by Monday morning for the executive committee to consider.

Like Lewis, the 41-year-old Williams was raised in Alabama. She attended Talladega College, a historically black school, and talks often of her familys deep ties to the civil rights struggle and the politics of race.

She long has been active in state party politics. Before being elected as a state senator in 2017, she was a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood across several Deep South states. Shes also climbed national party ranks, currently serving as one of the vice chairs of the Democratic National Convention Platform Committee that will shape the partys 2020 platform. Williams husband, Leslie Small, worked previously for Lewis as a top aide in the district.

John Lewis-Open Seat
People gather at a make-shift memorial near the home of Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), in Atlanta, on July 19, 2020. (Mike Stewart/AP Photo)

Williams elevation to congressional nominee, and her election as state party chairwoman before that, are part of a sea change in Georgia Democratic politics. The party for decades has been dependent on black voters at the ballot box but still had most often put forward white men as its top leaders and statewide nominees. Now, Williams stands to join two other black women, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and 2018 gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, as perhaps the states most recognizable, influential Democrats.

Williams was arrested at the state Capitol in 2018 during a protest calliRead More From Source

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