July 20 (UPI) -- Georgia Democrats on Monday selected state party chair Nikema Williams to replace the late Rep. John Lewis on the ballot in November's election.
Williams easily bested four other top contenders who were selected from a field of more than 130 potential candidates, receiving 37 of the 41 votes cast by the panel of activists and elected officials including Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and former state House representative and gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.
In a virtual address, Williams said no one would be able to fill Lewis' shoes, but described the late congressman as "a personal hero, friend and political mentor" and citing her 2018 arrest during a voting rights demonstration as an example of her engaging in the kind of "good trouble" he promoted.
"We need someone who is not afraid to put themselves on the line for their constituents in the same way congressman Lewis taught us to do," Williams said.
The committee's decision to select Williams came just three days after Lewis' death, as Georgia state law required a selection to be made by 4:30 p.m. Monday, as he had won the state's Democratic primary in June.
Some Democrats, including Lewis' former top aide, Michael Collins, called for the party to select a "placeholder" candidate who would serve a single two-year term or resign in January to allow for an open vote. "
"He believed very strongly that the people who represent the citizens," Collins wrote in a letter to the committee Monday. "And that a free and fair election, where all individuals have a level-playing field is in the best interest of our democracy."
Party leaders said not selecting a candidate for the November ballot would risk losing a seat that Lewis won by at least 70 percent of the vote in almost all of his re-election bids, drawing mostly only token Republican challenges.
Williams will face off against Angela Stanton-King, an author and television personality, who received a pardon from President Donald Trump after serving two years on federal conspiracy charges.