Fani Willis may face challenge in reelection bid in fall

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis could be facing a challenger in her reelection bid this fall. 

Christian Wise Smith, who’s served as Atlanta city solicitor and as a Fulton County prosecutor, is expected to file paperwork Friday morning at the Georgia state Capitol to qualify as a candidate for Willis’ job.

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Christian Wise Smith in an undated photo. National Social Justice Alliance

In a statement provided first to CBS News, Wise said he has not yet decided whether he will challenge Willis.

“Running for public office is not a decision I take lightly,” Wise said. “I am heavily considering the options as I aim to reach a final determination on my candidacy – ultimately, I only want what is best for the citizens of Fulton County. Should I decide to launch my campaign officially, my team is prepared to take all the necessary steps.”

Wise, a writer and the founder and president of the National Social Justice Alliance, ran against Willis in 2020 and campaigned on reforming the local criminal justice system. He lost the primary to Willis and former District Attorney Paul Howard, who both advanced to a runoff. Wise later endorsed Howard.   

Willis filed her qualifying paperwork this week to seek reelection.

The embattled district attorney has been embroiled in controversy over a personal relationship she had with special prosecutor Nathan Wade, whom she tapped to help oversee the county’s 2020 election interference case against former President Donald Trump and 18 co-defendants.  

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee is expected to rule by the end of next week about whether Willis and Wade will be removed from the case.

It stems from allegations from Michael Roman, a GOP operative charged along with Trump, that Willis and Wade had an “improper” romantic relationship and that the district attorney financially benefited from it. Trump and seven others joined Roman’s effort to disqualify Willis, Wade and her office from prosecuting the racketeering case against them, and are seeking to have the charges against them dismissed.

At a three-hour proceeding before McAfee on March 1, Adam Abbate, who works in Willis’ office, said in a presentation that there has been “absolutely no evidence that the district attorney has benefited at all” or would benefit in the future from the prosecution of the case.

But John Merchant, a defense attorney representing Roman, asserted that “if this court allows this kind of behavior to go on and allows D.A.s across the state by its order to engage in these kinds of activities, the entire public confidence in the system will be shot, and the integrity of the system will be undermined.”

Roman claimed the relationship between Wade and Willis began before she hired him as special prosecutor in the case against Trump in early November 2021. The two admitted in a court filing that they did have a romantic relationship, but said it started in 2022.

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