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Congresswoman-elect Nikema Williams makes shift from state to U.S. capitol

Nikema Williams braces for dual life in Atlanta and the nation's capital, Washington D.C.

ATLANTA — Congresswoman-elect Nikema Williams cleared her office out at the Georgia state capitol Wednesday as she heads to Washington D.C.  

She was elected in November to Georgia’s 5th Congressional District – the seat representing most of Atlanta.  

Williams had barely served three years in the Georgia Senate before she won the Congressional seat John Lewis held for 33 years.

Wednesday, she found keepsakes in the state Capitol office she'd kept -- including a Sweetwater Brewery hat, socks from Adult Swim, and the Bible she'd used to get sworn in three years ago for her state Senate seat.  She aims to use it again Jan. 3 when she becomes of member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

As a Democrat serving in the Republican-led legislature, Williams will pivot to a Democratic-led House in Washington.

"Knowing I’m going to Congress - and I’m going to be in the majority? I don’t know what that feels like," she laughed.

Williams became a Congresswoman after her Democratic party colleagues named her -- during a Zoom meeting -- the 5th district nominee three days after Lewis’s death in July.  

Lewis died of pancreatic cancer, too late in the 2020 calendar for voters to choose a new Democratic nominee.

RELATED: 'Just humbled': Weeks before John Lewis died, he sent a thank you letter to an artist for this special portrait

Williams has already been to orientation sessions in Washington, where she was elected by colleagues as freshman class president.  

Williams joins Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux and Republicans Andrew Clyde and Marjorie Taylor Green as House newcomers from Georgia. 

Unlike her Georgia freshman colleagues, Williams didn't have to wage a traditional, competitive campaign to win her seat because of the timing of Lewis's death, and because the 5th district is a safe seat for Democrats. However, she said she expects Democrats to challenge her in the 2022 primary.

Williams said her cell phone rang Tuesday night with an unfamiliar number. 

"The first thing I heard was you're my Congresswoman," she recalled. 

The voice on the phone was Andrew Young, who held the 5th district seat in Congress in the early 1970s. 

Williams said they talked for 30 minutes.

RELATED: Trio of Titans: John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, Joseph E. Lowery gone but not forgotten

"He told me to make sure that I made friends. And he told me to how there used to be this little snack bar that he would go to when he was in Congress, because the snack bar was where people would hang out. And it was the best snack bar in the building. And that’s where he made his relationships," Williams said.

Williams said that snack bar is gone but the Congresswoman-elect and Georgia Democratic party chair said she plans to build bipartisan relationships in part by frequenting a members-only lunch room on Capitol Hill.

Williams gets sworn in Jan. 3.


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