On Tuesday evening, Fani Willis proved successful in her bid to unseat longtime Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard.
AJC reports that Willis took 73 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s runoff election. Willis is set to become the first woman elected to serve as Fulton’s DA. “Y’all we made herstory,” Willis said. “You have my word, during my tenure as district attorney in Fulton County, we will be a beacon for justice and ethics in Georgia and across the nation.” Howard took office in 1997 and was the first Black man to ever serve as a District Attorney in the state of Georgia. He hadn’t faced any serious challengers in almost 20 years. Willis secured the majority of votes in the June primary but fell short of the 50 percent needed to secure victory.
An Emory Law School graduate, Willis was hired by Howard and worked for 16 years in the Fulton District Attorney’s Office. During that time she was promoted to the Major Case Division and later named Deputy District Attorney of the Complex Trial Division.
Willis served as the lead prosecutor in the trial of 12 Atlanta Public School teachers accused of correcting standardized test answers by their students. All but one of the defendants was found guilty of racketeering.
Howard, the first African-American to win election as a district attorney in Georgia, had not faced a serious challenger since 2000. When Willis formalized her candidacy in March, she made it clear that Howard’s conduct in office would be a major issue.
“I have gotten calls from South Fulton, North Fulton, Buckhead just begging me to run. The office under Howard’s leadership is broken, I believe I’m the right person to fix it,” Willis said in a recent interview. Howard is currently the focus of an ongoing criminal investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for funneling nearly $200,000 in city funds to a non-profit he was CEO of.
Last week, he agreed to pay the state ethics commission a $6,500 fine and admitted to 14 ethics violations. In June, Howard charged now-fired Officer Garrett Rolfe with 11 criminal counts over the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks. He conceded defeat on Tuesday night and told reporters “I came in with pride and I’m leaving with pride.”
Speaking to her supporters on Tuesday night, Willis vowed that she would run the office with “transparency and accountability.”