Fulton County DA Fani Willis to skip campaign debate

Shannon McCaffrey, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Political News

ATLANTA — Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has declined an invitation from the Atlanta Press Club to debate her Democratic opponent as she seeks a second term.

The debate had been scheduled for Monday, April 29.

Willis, who is leading Fulton County’s sweeping election interference case against former President Donald Trump and his allies, has attracted a pair of challengers — Christian Wise Smith, a fellow Democrat, and Courtney Kramer, a Republican.

Willis will face Wise Smith in Georgia’s May 21 primary.

Atlanta Press Club spokeswoman Laurie Strauss said Monday that, under the group’s policy, when a candidate declines to participate they will be represented by an empty podium.

Wise Smith will still have an opportunity to respond to questions from a panel of journalists, she said.


A statement from Willis’ campaign to the debate host said that the DA is not giving interviews on high-profile cases her office is handling, including the election case and the ongoing trial of Atlanta rapper Young Thug.

“We understand that she cannot insist that panelists and her opponent avoid certain subjects, and consequently, her participation means likely repeatedly being unable to respond to questions, as well as risking saying something that defense counsel could make an issue in ongoing litigation,” the statement said.

Willis has drawn intense scrutiny in recent months after it emerged she had been in a romantic relationship with the outside attorney she hired as her top Trump prosecutor. The judge overseeing the case rejected attempts by defense attorneys to use the relationship to disqualify her from the prosecution but said she had exhibited a “tremendous lapse in judgment.”

Willis is the overwhelming favorite in the race. Wise Smith has made two previous runs for office but lost each in the Democratic primary. Willis defeated him in her 2020 race for Fulton DA and he was bested by Jen Jordan in the 2022 race for attorney general.


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