Nikema Williams, a state senator and chair of Georgia state Democratic Party, will replace the late Rep. John Lewis on the ballot in November.
Facing a Monday afternoon deadline to select a new nominee, the state party executive committee chose Williams from a pool of 131 applicants. Lewis, a beloved icon of the Civil Rights Movement, died Friday at age 80, after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
“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,” Scott Hogan, executive director of the state Democratic Party, said in a statement.
Georgia election law gives state parties a very tight timeline to replace a candidate on the ballot. The state executive committee must decide by 4 p.m. on the next business day after a vacancy occurs if they wish to fill the spot.
A nominating committee, which included Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and 2018 governor nominee Stacey Abrams, selected five applicants to be short-listed for the nomination.
Williams beat state Rep. Park Cannon and Georgia NAACP President James “Major” Woodall. She received 37 votes of the 41 votes. Cannon got two votes, Woodall got one, and there was one abstention.
Georgia’s 5th District, which includes the Atlanta metro area, is safe Democratic territory. Hillary Clinton carried it with 85 percent of the vote in 2016.
Lewis was first elected in 1986 and never garnered less than 69 percent of the vote.