Runoff Tuesday determines who will fill final month of Rep. John Lewis' term

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ATLANTA — The two men competing to fill the remainder of John Lewis’ congressional term already faced the prospect of a low-turnout runoff where the winner will serve for just one month.

But it’s gotten even harder for Kwanza Hall, a former Atlanta city councilman, and Robert Franklin, president emeritus of Morehouse College, to get through to voters ahead of Tuesday’s election.

The Jan. 5 U.S. Senate runoffs that will determine the balance of power in Washington have siphoned resources and attention. Social media companies are enforcing a moratorium on political ads, taking away an inexpensive tool that Hall and Franklin could have used to connect with voters and clear up any confusion or misinformation.

There has been plenty. Some 5th Congressional District voters incorrectly assumed Tuesday’s runoff will allow one of the men to replace Nikema Williams, who takes office Jan. 3 for a full two-year term in that seat. But the winner of Tuesday’s runoff will serve for a month — filling out Lewis’ term — then pass the title on to Williams.

“It’s not just another election, it’s a continuum of honoring John Lewis,” Franklin likes to tell voters in the district that includes much of Fulton County and parts of Clayton and DeKalb counties. He said voters who see the runoff as another way to honor the civil rights icon, who died in July, appear more willing to participate.

Both men said they are doing the best they can with the resources they have to reach voters. The candidates also sent out mailers and plan to stuff their schedule Tuesday with stops at various precincts.

“You have to touch as many people as possible and let them know there is an election and to go vote for you,” Hall said.

Once the runoff results are certified, the winner can be sworn into Congress and start working right away.

Either Hall or Franklin is likely to participate in a handful of high-profile decisions during his one-month tenure.

Congress must pass legislation by Dec. 11 in order to fund the government and avoid a shutdown. Lawmakers also intend to approve a defense policy bill that has grown controversial because of a provision that calls on military bases named after Confederate leaders to be renamed. Georgia has two: Fort Benning and Fort Gordon.

There is also a chance some type of coronavirus stimulus will be put up for a vote during the month of December.

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