Park Cannon among five finalists to replace John Lewis

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State Rep. Park Cannon – one of five LGBTQ members of the Georgia legislature – is among a handful of finalists being considered to replace U.S. Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon and equality advocate who died on Friday.

Leaders of the Democratic Party of Georgia pared a pool of 131 applicants down to five on Monday. Those five finalists are being considered by the party’s executive committee, which is expected to select a nominee sometime on Monday.

Under state law, the party faces a Monday deadline to replace Lewis on the November ballot. The Democratic nominee will face what political pundits have said is token opposition from Republican Angela Stanton-King in a heavily-Democratic district that includes the City of Atlanta. Gov. Brian Kemp has 10 days to schedule a special election to fill the remaining months of Lewis’ term, which ends in January.

“The nominating committee fully considered all of the applicants and, following a robust discussion, reached a consensus on its recommendations,” nominating committee member Jason Carter said in a press release. Carter ran for governor in 2014.

If Cannon was selected and won the November election, she would become the 10th openly LGBTQ person serving in Congress and the first-ever from Georgia. The race would pit her, an LGBTQ progressive, against Stanton-King, who was criticized earlier this year for her comments comparing LGBTQ people to pedophiles.

In her application, Cannon said she would also become the first openly queer person in Congress.

“I would become the first openly queer member of Congress and the first openly queer woman,” she told the committee, via the AJC. “There is no other candidate that is more representative of the people that make up this diverse district and no one more prepared to serve this district immediately without a conflict of interest.”

Cannon, whose District 58 includes portions of Atlanta, was first elected to the state House in 2016. She has worked to further LGBTQ equality, oppose anti-gay legislation, improve HIV education and expand access to PrEP as a state lawmaker.

In recent weeks, Cannon has been active in protests for racial justice and equality in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

In June, Cannon called for state lawmakers to pass House Bill 636, which would require law enforcement agencies to report use-of-force incidents to a public database. She criticized fellow lawmakers who wouldn’t schedule a hearing for the legislation.

“They’re so closely tied to the sheriffs, they’re so closely tied to the NRA, they’re so closely tied to the Klan. And we have to say it,” Cannon said during the June 12 episode of Q Conversations, a weekly live event hosted by Project Q Atlanta.

“They are card-carrying members of these organizations, and they work hard to make sure that police organizations see them and hear them, and they take every word that we say and try to turn it around,” Cannon added.

Cannon was also a strong advocate for House Bill 426, which lawmakers passed in late June. The legislation, which Kemp later signed into law, was the first time in Georgia history that lawmakers passed protections for LGBTQ people.

State Democrats named five finalists, including Park, Atlanta City Council member Andre Dickens, former Morehouse College President Robert Franklin, state Rep. Nikema Wiliams and James “Major” Woodall, president of the Georgia NAACP.

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