Sen. Nikema Williams to replace John Lewis on November ballot

The Georgia state senator will run for the late congressman's seat

Nikema Williams John Lewis
Courtesy Georgia State Senate

Sen. Nikema Williams has been officially announced as the replacement for the late John Lewis on November election ballots.

READ MORE: Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon, dies at 80

Georgia Democrats chose Williams, the party chairwoman, in the days following Lewis’ death after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Prior to his passing, the civil rights leader had won the June primary for the 5th Congressional District seat.

According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Williams was selected from a group of 131 applicants narrowed down to five choices by the party’s executive committee. The tight deadline, legally mandated, is responsible for the fast decision, despite some questioning of the process.

The AJC reported that some Democratic party leaders questioned whether Lewis himself would be in favor of the swift move.

Michael Collins, Lewis’ former top aide, wants the individual to serve one year to allow candidates to run a fair campaign and voters to decide on their representation.

“He believed very strongly that the people who represent the citizens should be elected by the citizens,” Collins says of Lewis, according to AJC. He continues, “and that a free and fair election, where all individuals have a level-playing field, is in the best interest of our democracy.”B

Because Lewis died after the primary, but before the November election, Georgia law requires the Democratic party to make a decision the first business day after.

Although the law only requires a decision to be made on filling the seat, not to specifically name a replacement, Democratic leaders did not want any unnecessary election difficulties.

“That’s the biggest concern, that seat could be lost on a technicality,” says Ted Terry, the party’s vice-chair according to AJC. “That’s why you’re seeing a scramble.”

The 41-year-old senator faces another Black woman, Republican nominee Angela Stanton-King. Stanton-King, an author and reality TV star, was pardoned by President Donald Trump in February for her role in a vehicle-theft ring after serving two years behind bars. The Washington Times reports she has a pro-life political platform.

“Nobody could possibly fill the shoes of Congressman Lewis,” Williams says, according to The Washington Post. She continues “It would be the honor of my life to serve as the voice of the 5th Congressional District.”

As many are across the globe, Williams and the entire Georgia Democratic Party are mourning the death of Lewis. She calls the political leader both a hero and friend on an Instagram post.

Williams is a native of Smiths Station, Alabama, and graduated from Talladega College, a historically Black institution in the state. She was nominated to the Georgia State Senate in a 2017 special election, succeeding Vincent Fort who resigned to run for Atlanta mayor.

Williams, who worked for Planned Parenthood prior to becoming a state senator is also the deputy director for Care in Action, a non-profit that advocates for domestic workers.

Williams is married to Leslie Small, a former Lewis aide, and the two have a son, Carter.

READ MORE: Stacey Abrams slams GOP over voter suppression in Georgia

Williams comes from a family of activists, according to Essence. Her grandfather was a neighborhood leader, her great-aunt is Autherine Lucy, now 90, who integrated the University of Alabama in 1956.

The senator made headlines in 2018 when she and 14 other protesters were arrested during a voting rights demonstration. AJC reports the charges, dropped in June of 2019, “should have never been brought in the first place,’ according to her attorney.

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