Tomorrow, Georgia’s 5th Congressional district will hold a special election to determine who will serve the remainder of the late Congressman John Lewis’ term. The district includes parts of Clayton, DeKalb and Fulton counties. Seven candidates are vying for the position, including Robert Franklin, the James T. and Berta R. Laney professor in moral leadership at the Candler School of Theology. The winner of this election will serve through Jan. 3, 2021 and the winner of the Nov. 3 general election will serve the next congressional term.

Late Congressman John Lewis speaks to Emory students in 2018./Ayushi Agarwal, Managing Editor

The polls will open on Sept. 29 at 7 a.m. and will run until 7 p.m. If no candidate secures a majority vote, a runoff election will occur Dec. 1, 2020. The Wheel has compiled each candidate’s profile on the ballot.

Robert Franklin

Party affiliation: Democrat

Age: 66

Current position: James T. and Berta R. Laney professor in moral leadership at the Candler School of Theology

Campaign website: None

Franklin, who also served as the 10th president of Morehouse College (Ga.) from 2007 to 2012, is running as a Democratic candidate. Political columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Jim Galloway called him “the most interesting candidate of the bunch.”

“All of us in this race are in some way or the other proteges of John Lewis,” Franklin said of the six other candidates in an August interview with the Wheel. “Our job is in the short term to maximize every day in office and prepare the way for the congressman in the next term.”

If elected, Franklin intends to strengthen the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and rename it the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. In an interview with WABE, Franklin emphasized the need for “providing voice and vote at a critical time in the nation’s history, approaching a significant presidential election.”

“Ultimately, we need to prepare the nation for what many feel will be a change in presidential administrations,” Franklin said in his interview with Galloway. “How does one preside over that kind of transition — where there will be deep and sharp-elbowed polarization and animus?”

Mable Thomas

Party affiliation: Democrat

Age: 62

Current position: Member of the Georgia House of Representatives for District 56

Campaign website: 

Democratic candidate “Able” Mable Thomas is a state representative for District 56 who has served 22 years in the Georgia general assembly. As a state representative, Thomas sponsored a bill in June 2020 to ban no-knock warrants and a bill in March 2020 to vacate and expunge the record of any previous conviction for certain marijuana offenses. If elected, she also plans to renew the Voting Rights Act and support the naming of the Act after the late congressman. 

“I think the voters in District 5 deserve representation,” Thomas said in an August WABE news story. “We are still going to be taxed in the same way. There are a lot of bills. We want representation in Congress because it is too important with the pandemic, and people’s lives.”

Keisha Waites

Party affiliation: Democrat

Age: 47

Current position: Former state representative (2012-2017)

Campaign website: 

Waites is a 47-year resident of the 5th district. She received 25.5% of the vote for the Democratic primary in Georgia’s 13th Congressional District in June. As a member of the House Juvenile Justice Committee, Waites co-sponsored the Ban the Box legislation — a bill that would give ex-offenders a better chance to find employment. Some of the issues she would prioritize if elected are transgender rights, senior services, education and safer communities. 

“I am in this race because I consider it an extraordinary privilege and honor to be able to serve following someone like Congressman John Lewis,” Waites said in the District 5 Candidate Forum held by South Metro Democratic Women’s Council on Aug. 25. 

Kwanza Hall

Party affiliation: Democrat

Age: Unknown

Current position: Former Atlanta City Council member (2005-2017)

Campaign website: 

A long-time friend of Lewis, Democrat and former Atlanta City Councilmember, Kwanza Hall also has his name on the ballot for this election. Hall has pledged to prioritize LGBTQ+ rights, environmental and transportation issues, affordable housing and justice reform if elected. During his time as a councilmember, he wrote and unanimously passed legislation to fund the Atlanta Pre-Arrest Diversion Program in 2015 and a resolution to make Atlanta “100% Clean and Renewable energy by 2035.” Hall had known Lewis since childhood and believes it’s his duty to carry on his legacy.

“For over 40 years, John Lewis was my friend, my neighbor, my mentor and one of my inspirations to become a public servant in the fight for justice,” Hall said in a campaign video. “So for me, serving out his term in Congress is my personal obligation. I’m running to inspire the next generation of justice fighters and continue the legacy of activism in the fifth district.”

Barrington Martin II

Party affiliation: Democrat

Age: 32

Current position: Special educator for DeKalb County School District

Campaign website: 

Lewis’ opponent in the 2020 primaries, Barrington Martin II, is running again for the seat this Tuesday. Martin is a special education teacher in DeKalb county. He has pledged to push for a Universal Guaranteed Income, which, according to his website, would provide every adult with $1,300 per month. Martin also prioritizes education reform, the legalization of marijuana and gun safety laws that would require extensive background checks and firearm safety evaluation education. 

“For too long, the Democratic Party has been rooted with archaic, outdated and mundane ideologies, and it has not served the greater good of the people it seeks to represent,” Martin said in a campaign video. “The continuation of such antiquated ways is why people continue to lose faith in the party. As times change, the party must change with it.”

Steven Muhammad

Party affiliation: Independent

Age: 64

Current position: Minister

Campaign website: 

Muhammad aims to create engender reform across housing, employment and criminal justice. While he lacks previous political experience, Muhammad believes he is the only candidate able to create balance. 

“South Metro is an area that has been separated from the city of Atlanta because it wants to do its own independent thing,” Muhammad said at the Aug. 25 candidate forum. “We will set together programs that will allow South Metro to be represented, to have a voice in Washington D.C. that will give them a chance to put … their desires on the table.” 

Chase Oliver

Party affiliation: Libertarian

Age: 35

Current position: Customer service representative

Campaign website: 

Oliver is running under the slogan “more choices, more voices.” With a focus on criminal justice reform, Oliver plans to end elective immunity, which allows for law enforcement to evade punishment for wrongdoing. He also wants to end no-knock raids, militarization of police and cash bail if elected. He has no previous political experience.

“We must keep up the efforts to end No Knock Raids and end the War On Drugs which disproportionately affect the poor and communities of color,” Oliver tweeted on Sept. 24, the day after the grand jury decision in the case of Breonna Taylor was released.