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Trump prosecutor Fani Willis and trial judge Scott McAfee win their elections in Georgia

<i>Getty Images via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Trump prosecutor Fani Willis and trial judge Scott McAfee will win their elections in Georgia
Getty Images via CNN Newsource
Trump prosecutor Fani Willis and trial judge Scott McAfee will win their elections in Georgia

By Eric Bradner, CNN

(CNN) — Two key figures in former President Donald Trump’s election interference trial in Georgia fended off challengers in their elections Tuesday.

Fani Willis, the Fulton County district attorney who is prosecuting Trump, won her Democratic primary rematch with attorney and author Christian Wise Smith.

And Judge Scott McAfee, who is overseeing the former president’s case, triumphed in his nonpartisan election for Fulton County Superior Court.

The 2020 election interference case in Georgia was sidetracked for months over whether Willis should be disqualified following revelations that she had a romantic relationship with her lead prosecutor, Nathan Wade. Willis has managed to stay on, while Wade stepped down in March. An appeals court has said it will revisit the question of whether Willis should have been removed from the case.

That has left the Trump case effectively at a standstill. A legal argument before the Supreme Court over whether the former president has immunity from prosecution also remains an issue in the Georgia case and may not be decided until this summer.

Wise Smith, Willis’ primary opponent, finished third in the 2020 Democratic primary for Fulton County district attorney. In this year’s campaign, he questioned the resources that Willis’ office was devoting to Trump’s prosecution. Wise Smith said in a March interview with CNN’s Laura Coates that it was “very unfortunate that her personal life has become so public. And you know, I feel for her in that sense.”

Willis will next face Republican attorney Courtney Kramer, who worked in the White House counsel’s office under Trump. Kramer, who was unopposed in the Republican primary, will be the heavy underdog against Willis in deep-blue Fulton County, which is home to most of Atlanta. Trump won 26% of the vote in the county in 2020, compared with Joe Biden’s 73%.

McAfee, meanwhile, faced criminal defense lawyer and talk radio host Robert Patillo in his nonpartisan general election Tuesday. Patillo, who describes himself as a “conservative Democrat,” had criticized McAfee’s handling of the decision not to remove Willis from the prosecution when details of her romantic relationship with Wade emerged.

Another contender, Tiffani Johnson, had filed to take on McAfee but was disqualified after she did not appear at a hearing challenging her eligibility.

Tuesday’s election was the first for McAfee, who was appointed to his job by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in December 2022 to fill a retirement vacancy.

Campaigning in Atlanta on Tuesday, McAfee told CNN he had “really enjoyed kind of being out there on the trail.”

“Usually, we are in this legal bubble, where you are just talking to lawyers, and it is a healthy thing to get out there talking to some other folks,” he said.

McAfee also spoke of wanting to further voters’ trust in institutions.

“In my little corner of the world, if I can do everything I can to instill that trust, to further that trust, that is what I try to do,” the judge said.

McAfee had a major fundraising advantage in his race, in part due to bipartisan support from influential figures. Kemp and former Gov. Roy Barnes, a Democrat, were the marquee guests at a recent fundraising event for McAfee. Kemp could wind up being a witness in the Trump case. And Barnes was already a witness in the Willis disqualification issue.

Incumbent Georgia Supreme Court justice wins six-year term

Georgia Supreme Court Justice Andrew Pinson won a six-year term, defeating an opponent who made abortion rights a central part of his campaign.

Though elections for Georgia’s highest court are nonpartisan, Pinson and his challenger, former US Rep. John Barrow, came from partisan backgrounds. Pinson – a former clerk for US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas – was appointed to his current position in 2022 by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. The governor’s leadership committee Georgians First spent more than $600,000 to boost the justice’s campaign – in an ad, Kemp described Pinson as the “conservative voice we can trust.” Barrow, meanwhile, spent a decade as a Democratic congressman representing parts of eastern Georgia.

In his campaign, Barrow targeted the state’s restrictive abortion ban signed into law by Kemp. The ban prohibits most abortions after six weeks, before most women know they’re pregnant. The former congressman argued that Georgia needed a Supreme Court justice who would “protect the right of women and their families to make the most personal family and health care decisions they’ll ever make.”

Barrow’s talk about abortion earned him an ethics complaint from the state Judicial Qualifications Commission, alleging that he’d violated code of conduct rules on appearing impartial. Barrow sued the commission in federal court, arguing that it was a violation of his First Amendment rights. A judge dismissed the case ahead of the election.

Pinson was the only Georgia Supreme Court justice to face a challenger Tuesday as three other justices ran unopposed. Eight of the nine justices on the state high court were initially appointed by Republican governors.

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

CNN’s Arit John, Ryan Young and Devon M. Sayers contributed to this report.

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