ATLANTA – Former Atlanta City Council member Kwanza Hall won a special runoff election Tuesday for a brief term in Congress and will succeed the late civil rights legend John Lewis.
The 49-year-old Hall defeated fellow Democrat Robert Franklin, 66, in the Atlanta area district and will only hold the seat for a few weeks through Jan. 3.
Hall and Franklin were the top vote getters in a September special election after Lewis, a civil rights titan, died in July following 34 years in Congress. Neither candidate won a majority, though, forcing a runoff that leaves the winner with only about a month to serve in Congress.
Lewis’ long-term replacement will be state senator and state Democratic Party chair Nikema Williams, who easily defeated Republican Angela Stanton King in November for a full two-year-term starting in January. Williams and King didn’t run in the special election.
The 5th Congressional District includes most of the city of Atlanta, as well as some suburban areas of Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton counties. About 22,000 people voted, less than 5% of the district's registered voters.
Also Tuesday, Sonya Halpern beat Linda Pritchett to replace Williams in the state Senate in District 39, covering parts of Fulton County. Voters in Clarke and Oconee counties chose Democrat Deborah Gonzalez as district attorney over nonpartisan candidate James Chafin.
Lewis died at age 80 from pancreatic cancer. He was the youngest and last surviving speaker from the 1963 March on Washington, when Lewis led the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He was best known for leading protesters in the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where he was beaten by state troopers.
Hall and Franklin both contended that they could get something accomplished during a short stay in Congress. Voting on a temporary federal budget could be the most significant act that the winner takes, although there are still fading hopes of additional COVID-19 relief legislation.