With the death of legendary incumbent U.S. Rep. John Lewis in the midst of a re-election campaign, 5th Congressional District voters are likely to see a new Democratic nominee on the November ballot — along with a simultaneous special election to fill the few months remaining in Lewis’s term.
The Atlanta-based district includes parts of Brookhaven and Buckhead. Lewis had easily defeated a Democratic challenger in the June 9 primary and was scheduled to face Republican challenger Angela Stanton-King on the Nov. 3 ballot.
“Congressman Lewis’s death brings up two issues as to how his replacement will be selected,” said Walter Jones, a spokesperson for the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees elections.
“The first issue is who will replace him as the Democratic Party’s nominee on the November general election ballot for Congress’s next term,” said Jones.
State law allows the state executive committee of the Democratic Party to appoint a replacement nominee. The deadline for confirming that move is Monday, July 20, at 4:30 p.m., and the nominee must be named “shortly thereafter,” Jones said.
The Georgia Democratic Party confirmed through a spokesperson that it intends to have a replacement nominee in place by that deadline.
Jones predicted that the party nominee will be a high-profile, well-known political figure, due to the tight timeline for campaigning and fundraising. The party spokesperson declined comment about when the new nominee might be publicly announced.
“The second issue is who will fill the remainder of Congressman Lewis’s current Congressional term,” said Jones. That term runs into January. “Whoever wins that election will fill the remainder of the current term, which will be a very short time. If it goes to a runoff, the runoff may end up being a nullity because it wouldn’t be held until January.”
Under state law, Gov. Brian Kemp must call a special election to fill the seat, and the election must be held at least 30 days after that call is made. Jones said he expects Kemp will schedule the special election for Nov. 3, to coincide with the regular election.
The special election will be nonpartisan and in theory could have different candidates and a different winner than the regular election. Jones said it is politically likely that the Democratic Party’s nominee for the regular election will run in the special election as well.
Update: This story has been updated with more information about the naming of a new nominee.