Political hopefuls seek to fill seat of Civil Rights icon John Lewis

Courtesy+of+Lorie+Shaull+via+wikimedia+commons

Courtesy of Lorie Shaull via wikimedia commons

Georgia Rep. John Lewis’s death in July left an empty chair in Georgia’s 5th Congressional District. Georgia voters are now tasked with electing a temporary fill-in for the remainder of his term. 

On Sept. 29, there was a special election in which seven candidates ran, but there was no clear winner as no one earned more than 50% of the vote. 

A runoff election has been scheduled for Dec. 1 as a result of the Sept. 29 election. 

Only two of the seven candidates are advancing to the December election: Kwanza Hall and Robert M. Franklin Jr.

Both Hall and Franklin are Democrats. Hall is a former Atlanta city councilman and Franklin a former president of Morehouse College.

“He was a mentor to me, a person I looked up to,” Hall said of Lewis according to the New York Times.

“These are the final days of John Lewis’s term… They are sacred,” said Franklin, in an effort to recognize the importance of upholding Lewis’s standard for the rest of the term, according to the New York Times.

The remainder of the congressional term lasts until Jan. 3, when new representatives will be sworn into office after the November election. None of the candidates running in the special election are on the ballot to succeed Lewis in Congress. 

On Jul. 17. Lewis, who was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement, died after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Shortly after his death, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, called for the special election. 

Lewis was one of the original Freedom Riders, a group of activists who protested segregated buses and terminals. Along with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Lewis helped organize the March On Washington in 1963 and led the 1965 march for voting rights across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. where state troopers awaited the peaceful group’s arrival on the other side. 

The 1965 march is known as “Bloody Sunday” in reference to the incredible amount of physical abuse the protestors received. Lewis’s skull was cracked by a trooper’s club, and troopers  also used tear gas on the crowd in an effort to get them to disperse. Seventeen people were hospitalized as a result of the violence and many more were injured. 

“When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something,” said Lewis on the Senate floor during President Donald Trump’s impeachment trials in 2019.

When President Trump was asked in an interview with Axios’ Jonathan Swan if he thought Lewis was impressive, he said, “I can’t say one way or the other. I find a lot of people impressive. I find many people not impressive.”

The two men had a tense past as Lewis was one of President Trump’s biggest critics. Lewis did not attend the President’s inauguration in 2017 and questioned the legitimacy of his campaign. As a response, President Trump tweeted about Lewis’s “falling apart” and “crime infested” district. 

“He [Lewis] didn’t come to my inauguration. He didn’t come to my State of the Union speeches. And that’s OK. That’s his right. And, again, nobody has done more for Black Americans than I have,” said President Trump in the interview with Axois.