Hall, Franklin to face each other in runoff to succeed Rep. John Lewis in Georgia's 5th Congressional District

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In this file photo, U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) speaks as Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) listens during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol January 4, 2019 in Washington, DC. - Alex Wong/Getty Images North America/TNS

ATLANTA — Former Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall and former Morehouse College President Robert Franklin, both Democrats, are headed to a runoff to determine who will complete the late Congressman John Lewis’ term in office.

The Associated Press called the race for Hall and Franklin, who were among seven candidates running in the 5th Congressional District to succeed Lewis. The runoff is set for Dec. 1, and the winning candidate will serve until Jan. 3.

The candidates who did not advance to the runoff were Democrats “Able” Mable Thomas, Keisha Sean Waites and Barrington Martin II, Libertarian Chase Oliver and independent Steven Muhammad.

All seven candidates in the race had said that if elected they hoped to uphold Lewis’ legacy covering nearly 34 years in Congress and years before that as a leader in the civil rights movement.

Lewis died in July after a bout with advanced-stage pancreatic cancer and was celebrated for his work on voting access and civil rights.

Two voters at First Iconium Baptist Church in East Atlanta both said Tuesday afternoon that Lewis was on their minds as they cast their ballots.

Nia Kennedy, 26, said she had a busy day, but her mother encouraged her to head to the polls. “She always says it is important that we make time to come out and vote,” Kennedy said.

Eric Ottenberg, 30, said he voted in the special election because “John Lewis’ legacy is important to continue … and that requires being an active citizen.”

Tuesday went relatively smoothly across the district that stretches from Buckhead to south Fulton County and also includes parts of western DeKalb County and northern Clayton County.

The most noteworthy issue was at Atlanta’s Park Tavern polling place, which opened hours late because a security guard reportedly overslept. Those who showed up before the facility was accessible were given provisional ballots.

Turnout was a major theme of the campaign. Early returns indicate that less than 10% of voters, or fewer than 50,000 people, may have participated in the special election. By comparison, more than 170,000 5th District residents voted in the June primary.

The candidates were mostly forced to campaign virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic. All seven also complained about technical issues and mix-ups at some of the early voting locations, saying they worried that some voters had been discouraged from casting ballots.

The race itself also contributed to confusion. This special election overlaps with the November contest for a full two-year term that begins in January.

That race features Nikema Williams, a state senator and the chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, whom the party selected to take Lewis’ place on the ballot. Her opponent is Republican Angela Stanton-King, who received a pardon from President Donald Trump and is a vocal supporter.

Because the 5th District is a Democratic stronghold, Williams is expected to win that race easily.

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(Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Susan Potter contributed to this report.)

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