After Georgia Democrats chose state Sen. Nikema Williams to replace civil rights hero and late Congressman John Lewis as the Democratic nominee for Atlanta’s 5th Congressional District in November, the party’s executive committee said they have concerns about the process and transparency in the future.
Lewis passed away on Friday at the age of 80.
Georgia law forced party leaders to choose on a replacement by 4 p.m. the next business day after his death, or risk handing the seat to a Republican.
Williams will take Lewis’ place on the November ballot and run against Republican Angela Stanton-King – though Williams is expected to win since the district is mostly Democratic.
But during a Zoom call on Monday to replace Lewis, state Sen. Gloria Butler felt there was too much of a sense of urgency.
“We couldn’t leave the seat without a nominee, because we either comply by the law, or we give it to the Republicans,” Butler said.
“That would be a devastating disaster to the legacy of our beloved John Lewis.”
She told “Morning Edition” host Lisa Rayam she plans to push for a change in Georgia law during the next legislative session.
“I would think if we had a few more minutes, a little bit more time,” Butler said.
She said if Lewis had died in the middle of the week, instead of Friday, there would have been even less time to go through the applications.
“Maybe if there were another 24 hours. There has to be some discussion about what that would be,” she said.
An executive committee nearly unanimously voted for Williams out of five finalists on Monday.
Lewis’ former chief of staff, Michael Collins, sent a letter to the committee members before their vote. It read that “it is vital that the process take into account the will of the people – an important tenet of our democracy and a hallmark of [Lewis’] life’s work.”
Lily Oppenheimer contributed to this report.