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GA Voters to Decide if AD, Judge Stay  05/21 06:18

   

   ATLANTA (AP) -- Voters will decide whether two key players in the Georgia 
election interference case against former President Donald Trump will keep 
their jobs.

   Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and Superior Court Judge Scott 
McAfee are both on the ballot for Tuesday's election. Willis is the prosecutor 
who last year obtained a sprawling racketeering indictment against Trump and 18 
others, and McAfee is the judge who was randomly assigned to preside over the 
case.

   Willis has a single challenger in the Democratic primary and, if she wins, 
will face off against a Republican candidate in the fall. McAfee has one 
opponent -- after a second was disqualified -- in a nonpartisan contest that 
will be the final word on whether he gets to keep his seat.

   The intense public interest in the election case has thrust both Willis and 
McAfee into the national spotlight, giving them greater name recognition than 
occupants of their offices might otherwise have. That, along with the 
advantages of incumbency and fundraising hauls that have far surpassed their 
challengers, could give each of them an edge on Tuesday.

   Whether they win or lose, Willis and McAfee will remain in office through 
the end of this year, when their current terms expire. If either ends up 
getting ousted from office, it could further slow the election interference 
case, which has already been delayed by attempts to remove Willis from the 
prosecution.

   Willis and her progressive Democratic opponent, Christian Wise 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.

   Wise Smith has said that as district attorney he would focus on victims, 
work to end mass incarceration and target the school-to-prison pipeline. When 
he filed the paperwork to run, he told reporters he was keeping his options 
open, but he has since embraced his campaign, doing interviews and showing up 
at candidate events.

   Courtney Kramer is running unopposed in the Republican primary 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.

   While the Trump election case and racketeering cases against well-known 
rappers have boosted Willis' public profile, her campaign has focused her 
efforts to reduce a staggering case backlog that existed when she took office, 
fight gang violence and catch at-risk youth before they get caught up in the 
criminal justice system.

   In what many have seen as a major misstep, she engaged in a 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.

   In just over a year on the bench, the election case has made McAfee one of 
the more recognizable judges in Georgia. He previously worked as both a federal 
and a state prosecutor and as state inspector general. He was appointed by 
Republican Gov. Brian Kemp to fill an empty seat and has been vigorously 
campaigning in recent weeks to win a full four-year term. His campaign has 
drawn support from a bipartisan slate of heavy hitters, including Kemp and 
former Gov. Roy Barnes, a Democrat.

   Robert Patillo, a civil rights attorney and media commentator, has stressed 
"competency, compassion and change" in his campaign to replace McAfee. He has 
shied away from directly attacking McAfee, but has stressed the importance of a 
varied background and said the "prosecutor-to-judge pipeline" can lead to 
biases.

   Tiffani Johnson, who has worked as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney, 
had also filed paperwork to challenge McAfee. But she was disqualified after 
she failed to show up for a hearing on a challenge to her eligibility. After a 
judge upheld that disqualification, she asked the state Supreme Court to weigh 
in, but the high court has yet to act.

 
 
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