Bryan Sells, an attorney specializing in elections law, said the governor has discretion on when to call the special election to fill the remainder of Lewis’ term, but predicted it would be held in November.
The online nominating process evokes memories of Kemp’s search last year for a successor to Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who stepped down in December due to health reasons. Hundreds of people applied over several months before the governor appointed Kelly Loeffler, a wealthy executive, to the seat.
Democratic officials say the applications for Lewis’ seat will be reviewed by a nominating committee stacked with some of the party’s most prominent figures.
The group includes Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, 2018 gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, former party chair DuBose Porter and Jason Carter, who ran for governor in 2014. Other members are Glen Paul Freedman, who serves on a key party committee, Fulton Democratic chair LeWanna Heard Tucker and DeKalb Democratic chair John Jackson.
That group will select a list of finalists it will pass to the party’s executive committee - a group of activists, donors and elected leaders - that would make the final decision.
With Lewis’ death, four of Georgia’s 14 U.S. House seats are open in November. Republican Reps. Tom Graves of Granger and Rob Woodall of Lawrenceville aren’t seeking re-election, and Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville is leaving the seat to run for U.S. Senate.
The last special election for a Georgia U.S. House seat occurred in 2017. President Donald Trump tapped then-U.S. Rep. Tom Price in November 2016 for a Cabinet post, triggering an April 2017 special election and a June runoff for the suburban Atlanta seat.
Lewis represents one of the safest Democratic seats in the nation, a majority-Black district that stretches from the heart of downtown Atlanta to parts of Clayton and DeKalb counties. Hillary Clinton overwhelmingly carried the district in 2016, and Lewis ran unopposed two years ago. Whoever the committee picks will be heavily favored to win.
Republican Angela-Stanton King is waging a long-shot bid for Lewis’ seat, and won her party’s nomination without opposition. The author and former reality show star was recently pardoned by Trump after her 2004 conviction on federal conspiracy charges for her role in a car theft ring.