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GA AD, Judge Defeat Challengers        05/22 06:06

   

   ATLANTA (AP) -- Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, the Georgia 
prosecutor who brought a sprawling racketeering case against former President 
Donald Trump and others, has won the Democratic primary in her bid for 
reelection.

   Willis defeated progressive attorney Christian Wise Smith in the primary 
election and is now set to face off against Republican Courtney Kramer in the 
fall. Willis told reporters after her victory that the voters sent a message 
that "people want a DA that is just, that treats everybody equally and that 
works hard, and they know that they have that in me."

   Meanwhile, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, the judge who 
was randomly assigned to preside over the election interference case, also 
fended off a challenger, winning a nonpartisan election to keep his seat.

   The Trump election case and racketeering cases against well-known rappers 
have boosted Willis' public profile. But on Tuesday night she touted her 
efforts to fight violent crime by being tough on gang members while also saying 
she worked to give second chances to first offenders and created programs to 
catch at-risk youth before they get caught up in the criminal justice system.

   "The people said yes to justice. The people said yes to safety. The people 
said yes to integrity. The people said yes to Fani Willis," Atlanta Mayor Andre 
Dickens said to applause Tuesday night at Willis' victory party.

   With her name recognition, the advantages of incumbency and a hefty 
fundraising haul, Willis' victory in the primary was not terribly surprising. 
As she moves on to the general election, the odds would seem to be in her favor 
as well. Fulton County includes most of the city of Atlanta and is heavily 
Democratic, about 73% of its voters having cast ballots for President Joe Biden 
in the 2020 election.

   But Willis was taking nothing for granted after her primary win, telling 
supporters, "The campaign does not end tonight. It begins tonight."

   "My opponent is completely unqualified," she said, later adding, "But while 
she is inexperienced and unqualified and does not represent the values of my 
county, don't get confused. She is a real threat because of who backs her and 
how they back her."

   Willis urged her supporters to continue to back her financially, noting that 
there was a store selling campaign merchandise onsite during her victory party.

   Kramer, who has ties to some of Trump's most prominent allies in Georgia and 
has drawn campaign contributions from both the county and state Republican 
parties, told reporters when she qualified to run that the Trump indictment 
prompted her to challenge Willis. In a post on the social media platform X 
earlier this month, she wrote, "The future of Fulton and safety in our 
community should not be controlled by self-interested politicians who use their 
office for political law fare. It's time for a change."

   McAfee has been on the bench since last year when Republican Gov. Brian Kemp 
appointed him to fill an empty seat. He has since become one of the most 
high-profile judges in Georgia since he was randomly assigned last year to 
preside over the election interference case. With the added advantages of 
incumbency, strong bipartisan backing from heavy hitters and an impressive 
fundraising haul, he was the likely favorite to win.

   Willis and Smith both worked in the Fulton County district attorney's office 
under then-District Attorney Paul Howard. They both challenged their former 
boss in the Democratic primary in 2020. Willis and Howard advanced to a runoff 
that she won, and she ran unopposed in the November general election that year.

   Kramer ran unopposed in the Republican primary Tuesday and has already been 
focusing her attention on attacking Willis. A lawyer who interned in the Trump 
White House, she has ties to some of the former president's prominent allies in 
Georgia.

   Kramer and her backers will undoubtedly continue to focus on what even some 
of Willis' closest allies have seen as a major misstep -- her romantic 
relationship with a special prosecutor she hired for the election case. Claims 
by defense attorneys in the case that the romance created a conflict of 
interest threatened to derail the prosecution.

   McAfee ultimately ruled that it did not create a conflict of interest that 
should disqualify Willis, but he said she could only continue the case if the 
special prosecutor, Nathan Wade, stepped aside. Wade promptly left the case, 
but a defense appeal of McAfee's ruling is now pending before the Georgia Court 
of Appeals.

   Wade was among those gathered at an event space in Atlanta's Buckhead 
neighborhood Tuesday evening to celebrate Willis' win.

   Willis obtained an indictment in August against Trump and 18 others, 
accusing them of participating in an alleged illegal scheme to overturn Trump's 
narrow loss in the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. Four people have 
pleaded guilty after reaching deals with prosecutors. Trump and the 14 others 
who remain have pleaded not guilty.

 
 
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