Georgia election to fill Rep. John Lewis’ term goes to runoff

Winner of December contest will serve just a month

Georgia’s 5th District will need a runoff to determine a successor to the late Democratic Rep. John Lewis. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Georgia’s 5th District will need a runoff to determine a successor to the late Democratic Rep. John Lewis. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted September 29, 2020 at 10:35pm

A short-term stint in Congress will be even shorter after a special election Tuesday in Georgia’s 5th District ended with none of the seven candidates getting the needed 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff.

Former Atlanta City Council Member Kwanza Hall and former Morehouse College President Robert Franklin, both Democrats, will meet in a Dec. 1 runoff to decide on a successor to civil rights icon John Lewis, who died in July

Hall was was leading the seven-person field with 32 percent of the vote when The Associated Press called the runoff before 10 p.m. Eastern time. Franklin was in second place with 28 percent, followed by state Rep. Mable Thomas with 19 percent.

The winner will serve just about one month, because no one who ran Tuesday is on the ballot in November, when voters in the Atlanta-based district choose their representative for the full two-year term that starts in January. 

After Lewis’ death, the executive committee of the state Democratic Party chose party chairwoman and state Sen. Nikema Williams as the nominee to face Republican Angela Stanton-King, who was unopposed in the June 9 primary. 

Williams has said she decided against running in the special election to focus on November and to take care of her family during the pandemic. 

Hall, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2017, raised $54,000 through Sept. 9 and had spent $16,000. He knew Lewis through his father, who was a staff member for Martin Luther King Jr. Hall also worked with Lewis as a city council member.

Franklin was the top fundraiser in the race, with $106,000 raised through Sept. 9, including a $20,000 loan he made to his campaign. He had spent $60,000 of that as of Sept. 9. 

Franklin, who now teaches theology at Emory University, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he was motivated to run by Lewis’ final essay, published posthumously by The New York Times in July, which urged “ordinary people with extraordinary vision” to stand up for the country’s soul. 

Both candidates told the Journal-Constitution they support protecting and improving the 2010 health care law, providing a pathway to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally, and government efforts to respond to climate change.

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