ATLANTA — State Senator Nikema Williams (D-Atlanta) was named by the Democratic Party of Georgia Executive Committee to replace the name of the late Rep. John Lewis on the November ballot. Williams defended the process in an interview with 11Alive News.
She also discussed what she wants to do if voters send her to Congress. As the Democratic nominee in Georgia's 5th congressional district, she became the overwhelming favorite to win Lewis's seat in November.
She spoke with 11Alive News Tuesday.
11Alive News: What will your priorities be in Congress?
Williams: Well, I know one thing. We’ve got to get the voting rights act passed. We need a new voting rights act in Georgia. I grew up in Alabama. Moved here to Georgia after college. And after Shelby v. Holder, we’ve seen the dire consequences that it has caused. And that’s going to be one of my number one priorities, if my future colleagues don’t get it right before I get there.
And we need to make sure we’re continuing to lift up those most marginalized. That’s something that Congressman Lewis would have done, and I’m looking forward to continuing the legacy.
Q: What do you think about efforts to reform police power or de-fund the police?
A: There absolutely should be efforts to reform police power. What we saw happening over this country was not just isolated incidents. It’s just things that were caught on tape. Black people in this country have been at the hands of police violence for generations. I have a young black son. My husband is a black male here in the city, in the south. And I see what happens across this country on a daily basis and it’s absolutely a necessary conversation we should be having.
I’m glad people are raising their voices and making their concerns heard to the decision-makers, and I’ve been listening. And I think we need more leaders that are willing to listen to people in the streets, making their voices and their concerns heard.
Q: Would you like to be in alliance with, or part of “the squad“ with Congresswoman (Alexandra) Ocasio-Cortez?
A: I’m not trying to be part of any group. I’m going to Congress to be Nikema Williams. That’s all that I can be. People have asked me if I want to be a part of The Squad. If I’m trying to mirror congressman Lewis‘s work, then all I can do is be Nikema. That’s the way I was raised. That’s why I was nominated to be the Democratic nominee. Because people know my body of work and they are looking forward to continuing the work in the frame of the only way I know how to do, and that is being Nikema. I’m not looking to go up to be part of anything, other than a member of Congress representing the fifth congressional district.
Q: Are you up to filling Congressman Lewis‘s shoes?
A: No one can ever fill Mr. Lewis‘s shoes. The only thing I can do is make sure that I am living up to the legacy that he left behind. There’s more work to do. There’s different work to do. Congressman Lewis showed us the way. He has given us the guidebook. It’s up to me to continue that work. But I can’t step into his shoes.
There will never be another John Lewis. What we saw last week was a nation, a world in mourning, and I will never pretend to step into his shoes and to be the man that he was. I am looking to take those lessons that he taught me, and make sure that I’m doing everything that I can to move our state and our country forward in the ways that he taught me to do.
Q: How hard on you and your family was his death?
A: My husband worked for Congressman Lewis both in his congressional office in DC and his district office here in Georgia. And on his campaign. For multiple cycles. And it was very difficult for us. When everybody else woke up (July 18) and was trying to scramble to figure out what was going on with the selection process, I was comforting my grieving husband while I was grieving myself. And trying to make sure that we had a clear transparent process to move forward to make sure we didn’t have a Republican representing the fifth congressional district. So, it has been a very difficult time for my family and a very personal loss for us. Not just a political loss, not just someone we knew from a distance. But someone who is very much a part of our family.
Q: Do you feel strongly about Joe Biden picking somebody from Georgia as his vice president?
A: I’m the chairman of the of the Democratic Party of Georgia. So, I certainly love that we’ve had two Georgia women, black women, in contention for the vice presidency of the United States. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Stacey Abrams have been at the top of many lists across the country in speculating on who who it could be.
But I do know that Georgia is a battleground state. Picking someone from Georgia (would) make sure that we are turning out our voters in force, we are making sure that our voters are engaged and enthused. And we have to give people a reason to turn out and vote, not just something to vote against. And we are doing that here at the Democratic Party of Georgia. And what better way to highlight that then to have a woman from Georgia running on the ticket with Joe Biden when we elect him.
Q: And it would elevate the two Senate races too, right?
A: It would. We have many opportunities here in Georgia. Two US Senate races, our 16 Electoral College votes, and we are going to flip the state House of Representatives. So we have many opportunities here. We even have a congressional seat up in the seventh where we’re going to finish the job that we started in 2018.