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Georgia lawmaker appointed to judgeship, triggering special election for House seat

A prominent Georgia state lawmaker was appointed Wednesday to a judgeship, and a special election for his House seat will be needed in coming months.

Rep. Barry Fleming of Harlem will serve as a superior court judge in Columbia County, replacing Judge James Blanchard Jr., who retired, Gov. Brian Kemp said in a news release. Fleming will be sworn in on Jan. 10, said Kemp spokesperson Garrison Douglas.

Kemp chooses judges from lists of candidates prepared by the Judicial Nominating Commission, whose members are appointed by the governor.

Fleming lost a race for House speaker to Jon Burns in 2022. He’s been most recognized in recent years for leading the committee that authored a new election law in 2021 which restricted voting by mail and gave the legislature greater control over how elections are run. But House Speaker David Ralston stripped Fleming of his chairmanship after Fleming unsuccessfully ran for whip later in 2021. He was seen as a more right-wing alternative to Burns and Ralston.

His law practice, which has represented municipalities and counties around the city of Augusta, became a target of protests after the 2021 election law was enacted.

Fleming had previously served as whip starting in 2004, when Republicans took control of the chamber for the first time in more than 100 years. Among his other achievements then were passing a law requiring voters to show photo identification. Fleming stepped down to run an unsuccessful congressional race in 2008, but won reelection to the state House in 2012 and has served since.

Kemp must call a special election within 10 days of Fleming stepping down. That election must occur no sooner than 30 days and no later than 60 days after Kemp issues the call. That means the election could be timed to coincide with Georgia’s March 12 presidential primary.

Fleming’s 125th House District includes parts of Columbia and McDuffie counties.

Kemp on Wednesday also named Alison Sosebee as a superior court judge for Fannin, Gilmer and Pickens counties in north Georgia’s Appalachian Judicial Circuit. Sosebee has been the district attorney in that circuit since 2013. She will replace Judge John Worcester, who died in August.

The governor named Mark Hendrix, solicitor general in Liberty County, to a newly created judgeship in the coastal Atlantic Circuit. That circuit covers Bryan, Evans, Liberty, Long, McIntosh and Tattnall counties.

   

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