Republican competing to succeed John Lewis goes solo in virtual debate

    The virtual debate in the race to succeed the late Rep. John Lewis was a one-sided affair Monday after the Democrat favored to win the seat stayed away and her Republican opponent's barbs went unanswered.

    The Republican who is running a long-shot campaign in the deep blue congressional district long held by the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis tried to capitalize on her opponent’s decision to sit out a virtual debate Monday.

    Angela Stanton-King is running as a Republican for Georgia’s 5th Congressional District. She faces state Sen. Nikema Williams, who declined to participate in the Atlanta Press Club’s Loudermilk-Young debate series on Georgia Public Broadcasting. The state party selected Williams to replace Lewis on the November ballot after he died of pancreatic cancer in July, meaning the Atlanta Democrat will not face voters again until 2022 primary if she wins the Nov. 3 election.

    Angela Stanton-King (Screenshot from Atlanta Press Club debate)

    “It wasn’t disrespectful to me, but it was disrespectful to the people of the 5th District of Georgia. She used an inside process to get the nomination and now she won’t even stand before voters to lay out her plan or her process,” Stanton-King said Monday. “I don’t think that that’s fair.”

    Stanton-King, who is an ally of President Donald Trump and anti-abortion activist, pounced on her 15 minutes in the spotlight, criticizing the opposing party’s position on abortion. As a state senator, Williams fought the so-called “heartbeat” bill that passed last year, which banned abortion as early as six weeks or before many women know they are pregnant. The constitutionality of that law is being tested in the courts.

    “With everything that we’re seeing with Black Lives Matter, we know that Black life begins in the womb,” Stanton-King said. “So, if Black lives truly do matter, then I think we need to focus on some of these radical left policies that are exterminating life in the womb.”

    Williams, who is a nonprofit executive and the chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia, tweeted last month that she skipped the debate because she is “a parent with a child in virtual kindergarten also working FullTime.” That prompted this quip from King: “Find a baby sitter, I’ll pay.”

    When asked about her absence Monday, Williams said in a statement that she did not want to “legitimize” Stanton-King’s candidacy and that she is focused on reaching voters in other ways.

    “I have tremendous respect for the Atlanta Press Club and the decades of public service provided by the Loudermilk-Young Debate Series,” Williams said. “Because of that respect I’m not going to give my opponent a platform to spread her Trump Republican lies and baseless conspiracy theories to the voters of the Fifth Congressional District. I refuse to legitimize her candidacy.”

    Stanton-King, who is an author and TV personality, was pardoned earlier this year by Trump for a 2004 conviction on federal conspiracy charges involving her role in a stolen vehicle ring. She is a goddaughter of Alveda King, who is a niece of Martin Luther King Jr. and also a Trump ally.

    Jill Nolin
    Jill Nolin has spent nearly 15 years reporting on state and local government in four states, focusing on policy and political stories and tracking public spending. She has spent the last five years chasing stories in the halls of Georgia’s Gold Dome, earning recognition for her work showing the impact of rising opioid addiction on the state’s rural communities. She is a graduate of Troy University.