Fulton voters oust DA
By Maggie Lee
Fani Willis will take over state prosecutions in Fulton County, carried by a big election win over her onetime boss, incumbent District Attorney Paul Howard.
It looks like a new sheriff is coming to town too, as Atlanta corrections leader Patrick Labat racked up the voters over incumbent Fulton County Sheriff Ted Jackson.
Congratulations started arriving for Willis about 11 p.m. when incomplete results showed her with 73.3% of the ballots counted — about 41,000 votes to Howard’s roughly 15,000. Howard conceded before midnight.
Howard wasn’t helped by a GBI investigation into his role as a CEO of a nonprofit that got city of Atlanta contracts or a state ethics fine for failing to disclose that side job, or by three employee lawsuits alleging sexual harassment. Howard has said that the legal trouble is politically motivated and that he hasn’t harassed anyone.
In June, Howard was quick to charge Garrett Rolfe with murder for shooting Rayshard Brooks while on duty as a police officer. But the move riled up cops and critics who saw in it an election season move, and not a charge the DA could make stick. Howard’s office’s attempted use of a subpoena in that case has also attracted GBI attention.
During campaigning, Willis said that Howard’s office charges people who shouldn’t be charged. She promised to channel more people away from jail into mental health care, drug rehabilitation and a pre-indictment diversion program.
Willis will be the Fulton’s first Black female district attorney.
Labat went into late Tuesday evening with strong numbers — about 59% of the votes for Fulton county sheriff. Labat was most recently chief of Atlanta’s Department of Corrections. But he exited to run for sheriff — probably in a timely manner, as the city has plans to close its city jail.
Jackson said on the campaign trail that he wants to draw more attention to the mental health issues in the jail. Labat said the biggest problem for the office is low morale and high turnover.
There are no Republicans in either race, so both Willis and Labat win by winning the Democratic primary.