Voters to decide whether prosecutor and judge in Georgia Trump election case keep their jobs

ATLANTA– Voters will decide whether two key players in Georgia’s 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 secured a sweeping indictment against Trump and 18 others last year, and McAfee is the judge randomly assigned to preside over the case.

Willis has one challenger in the Democratic primary and if she wins, she will face a Republican candidate in the fall. McAfee has one opponent – ​​after a second was disqualified – in an unbiased contest that will be the final say on whether he can keep his place.

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

Win or lose, Willis and McAfee will remain in office until the end of this year, when their current terms expire. If either is removed from office, it could further delay the election interference case, which has already been delayed by efforts 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 during the 2020 Democratic primaries. 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 prosecutor he would focus on the victims, work to end mass incarceration and target the school-to-prison pipeline. When he filed the paperwork, he told reporters he was keeping his options open, but he has since embraced his campaign, conducting interviews and appearing at candidate events.

Courtney Kramer is running unopposed in the Republican primary and has already turned her attention to attacking Willis. She is a lawyer who interned in the Trump White House and has ties to some of the former president’s prominent allies in Georgia.

While the Trump election and racketeering cases against high-profile rappers have raised Willis’ public profile, her campaign has focused its efforts on reducing the massive backlog of cases that existed when she took office, combating gang violence and rounding up at-risk youth before they came to power. become entangled in the criminal justice system.

In what many have seen as a major misstep, she became romantically involved with a special prosecutor she hired for the election case. Claims by lawyers in the case that the romance created a conflict of interest threatened to derail the prosecution.

McAfee ultimately ruled that there was no conflict of interest that should disqualify Willis, but he said she could only pursue the case if the special prosecutor, Nathan Wade, stepped aside. Wade immediately left the case, but an appeal of McAfee’s ruling is now pending in the Georgia Court of Appeals.

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

Robert Patillo, a civil rights attorney and media commentator, has emphasized “competence, compassion and change” in his campaign to replace McAfee. He has shied away from attacking McAfee directly, but has emphasized the importance of a diverse background and said the “pipeline from prosecutor to judge” can lead to bias.

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