Special to The Dallas Examiner
ATLANTA – “Our country has lost a giant tonight. Congressman John Lewis was America’s greatest champion in the fight for justice and equality, and showed us all how to put the people first,” expressed Georgia State Sen. Nikema Williams, District 39. “His legacy of good trouble will ring on in generations to follow, a guiding light for those continuing to march toward a more righteous future.
“He was my hero and my friend, and I will miss him very much.”
Williams, 42, the first Black woman to chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia, has been selected to succeed civil rights legend Congressman John Lewis in the United States House of Representative for Georgia’s 5th Congressional District.
On July 18, the Executive Committee of the Democratic Party of Georgia announced the nomination process for filling the vacancy.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Congressman John Lewis and wish very much that we were not in this position today,” said DPG General Counsel Sachin Varghese. “The Democratic Party of Georgia takes our legal responsibility of naming a nominee to this seat seriously, and we are making every effort to honor Congressman Lewis’ legacy and the people of the 5th District throughout this process, while working within the applicable legal framework.”
To meet the values and needs of Georgia’s 5th Congressional District, fulfill DPG’s obligations under Georgia law, and live up to the legacy of the national hero, the DPG made an open call for candidate applications from any Georgian interested in serving in this role, acknowledging the necessary speed of the process due to legal requirements.
All interested in being considered had to complete and submit an application by 6:30 p.m. July 19. Applications were evaluated by a nominating committee comprised of 5th District and Democratic leaders, who reviewed the 131 submitted applications and narrow the list down to three to five individuals to be considered by the Executive Committee.
The nominating committee included: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms; DuBose Porter, former DPG chairman; Stacey Abrams, former Democratic leader of the Georgia House; Jason Carter, former state senator; Glen Paul Freedman, DPG state committee member and Resolutions Committee chair; LeWanna Heard Tucker, chair of the Fulton Democratic Committee; and John Jackson, chair of the DeKalb County Committee.
The executive committee met on July 20 to consider the nominating committee’s recommendations. It selected a nominee and submitted the name to the Secretary of State. Following the meeting, the DPG released the names of five nominees:
- Park Cannon
- Andre Dickens
- Robert Franklin
- Nikema Williams
- James “Major” Woodall
“The nominating committee fully considered all of the applicants and, following a robust discussion, reached a consensus on its recommendations,” said nominating committee member Jason Carter.
On July 20, the party announced the nomination of Williams.
“This was a very difficult decision to make so soon after Congressman Lewis’s passing, and the Executive Committee is grateful to every applicant who submitted their name for consideration,” Varghese stated. “We have done our best to keep this process open and fair, while working within the strict framework and timeline set forth in Georgia law. After discussion and voting, the Executive Committee agreed that Nikema Williams’ years of service to the Fifth District and commitment to justice make her the best possible candidate for this role, with a very important legacy to uphold.
“When Nikema Williams decided to seek the nomination, she recused herself from her role as chairwoman, handing off the process to other party leaders including myself. Today she recused herself from the vote and the discussion of the candidates among Executive Committee members and was treated the same as every other candidate.”
After a nonbinding poll of 41 votes, Nikema Williams had 37 votes, Cannon had two votes and Woodall had one vote, with one abstention.
“As a Party, we remain committed to upholding Congressman Lewis’ legacy of fighting for justice and for free and fair elections for every Georgian,” said DPG Executive Director Scott Hogan. “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.
Hogan congratulated Williams on the appointment and said he looked forward to working with her in her new capacity as the party upholds and builds on Lewis’ legacy and elects Democrats across Georgia in November.
Williams said she was honored to be nominated.
“Nobody will ever fill the shoes of Congressman John Lewis,” she expressed. “I will do everything in my power to honor his legacy and lift up his spirit.”