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Fani Willis and the judge presiding over Trump’s Georgia election case defeat their rivals

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

Willis defeated progressive attorney Christian Wise Smith in the primary and will now face Republican Courtney Kramer in the fall. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, the judge who was randomly assigned to preside over the election interference case, also rejected an opponent and won a nonpartisan election to keep his seat.

Intense public interest in the election case has put Willis and McAfee in the national spotlight, giving them greater recognition than the occupants of their offices might otherwise have.

With name recognition, the perks of the office, and considerable fundraising, Willis’ primary victory wasn’t too surprising. As he moves toward the general election, the odds also appear to be in Willis’ favor. Fulton County includes most of the city of Atlanta and is heavily Democratic: About 73% of its voters voted for President Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

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 GOP, told reporters as she qualified to run that Trump’s impeachment prompted her to challenge Willis. In a post on the social platform It’s time for a change.”

McAfee has been in the hot seat since last year, when Republican Gov. Brian Kemp appointed him to fill an empty seat. He has since become one of Georgia’s most prominent judges since he was randomly assigned to preside over the election interference case last year. With the added advantages of his tenure, strong bipartisan support from heavy hitters, and impressive fundraising, he was the likely favorite to win.

Willis and Smith worked in the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office under then-District Attorney Paul Howard. They both challenged her former boss in the Democratic primary in 2020. Willis and Howard advanced to a runoff, which she won, and she ran unopposed in the general election in November of that year.

Kramer ran unopposed in Tuesday’s Republican primary and has already turned his attention to 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 Trump’s election case and racketeering cases against well-known rappers have boosted Willis’s public profile, his campaign has focused on his efforts to reduce a staggering backlog of cases that existed when he took office, fight gang violence and catch at-risk youth sooner. They get caught up in the criminal justice system.

In what even some of her closest allies have seen as a major misstep, she entered into a romantic relationship with a special prosecutor she hired for the election case. Claims by defense attorneys in the case that the affair created a conflict of interest threatened to derail the proceedings.

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

Wade was among those who gathered at an event space in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood Tuesday night to celebrate Willis’ victory.

In just over a year on the court, the election case has made McAfee one of Georgia’s most recognizable judges. He previously worked as a federal and state prosecutor and as a state inspector general. He was appointed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp to fill an empty seat and has been campaigning vigorously 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 Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes.

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 pleaded guilty after reaching deals with prosecutors. Trump and the remaining 14 have pleaded not guilty.