DA Willis called out by Dem primary opponent for skipping debate to attend WH Correspondents Dinner

 April 30, 2024

Georgia's Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis was supposed to debate her Democratic challenger on Sunday ahead of the May 21 primary election, but she ultimately failed to appear at that particular event.

Instead, contrary to local reporting, Willis attended the annual White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington D.C. and was promptly called out by her opponent for her decision to skip the debate so she could "schmooze with politicos" in the nation's capital, Fox News reported.

Whether her choice of hanging out with celebrities, journalists, and politicians in D.C. instead of debating county-specific issues in Georgia will come back to haunt her when voters cast their ballots for district attorney next month is unclear at this time.

Willis didn't show up for scheduled primary debate

The Hill reported that DA Willis was a no-show for Sunday's scheduled Democratic primary debate hosted by the Atlanta Press Club against her sole opponent, local attorney and author Christian Wise Smith, who ultimately faced off against an empty podium on the stage.

According to local media reports, Willis skipped the debate to instead co-host Atlanta's annual "Self Care Fair" to benefit crime victims, but that was quickly proven to be false as a journalist and a media outlet both separately highlighted in social media posts the DA's attendance at the WHCA event in D.C.

At one point during the literally one-sided debate, Smith said to the empty podium, "My question for you is: Where are you? You know I’m here because I care about the citizens and the families of Fulton County. But it’s my understanding that you may have attended the White House correspondents’ dinner. You might be fundraising across the country, but what about us here in Fulton County? What are you doing to address the issues in the jail? What are you doing to address the backlog? Where are you, Ms. Willis?"

Asked to give a rebuttal to what Willis' response to those questions might be, Smith declined to speak on his opponent's behalf but observed that "her absence is all the response that we need."

Smith calls out Willis for skipping debate

Fox News reported that Smith issued a press release on Monday that signaled his openness to reschedule the debate that DA Willis skipped but also took multiple shots at the prosecutor for not showing up to Sunday's primary event as well as her apparent mishandling of high-profile cases, including her election-related prosecution of former President Trump.

In a statement released through a campaign spokesman, Smith said, "I have enormous respect for Willis's busy calendar, but ignoring a community-organized event while violent crime escalates, to schmooze with politicos while an 'SNL' comedian roasts the entire political process, tells me where her allegiances lie -- and it's not with the voters of Fulton County."

The candidate knocked Willis for her apparent singular focus on the Trump case that left "everyday Georgians trapped in a flawed criminal justice system to fend largely for themselves as the high-profile case gobbles up limited energy and resources."

"The three biggest issues facing Fulton County residents right now are (1) failure to center victims in criminal prosecutions, (2) ending the school-to-prison pipeline, and (3) curbing mass incarceration," Smith said. "Politics do not keep the families and residents of Fulton County safe. Action does. Unfortunately, our system has over-policed, over-convicted, and over-incarcerated. Yet, I haven’t heard Fani Willis put forth a plan that indicates she’s concerned about the real issues keeping voters awake at night."

It should be noted that Smith, a former Fulton County prosecutor and Atlanta city solicitor, doesn't necessarily disapprove of Willis' prosecution of the former president, though he has criticized her apparent missteps and insisted that, if he were in charge, he would "do things differently."

Last poll showed Willis on track toward landslide victory

Local Fox affiliate WAGA reported last week that a recent poll of Democratic voters in Fulton County revealed that DA Willis enjoyed overwhelming support at 79%, while Smith garnered just 9% support -- albeit in a survey conducted before Willis blew off the scheduled debate to instead attend the White House Correspondents Dinner in D.C.

Whoever emerges victorious from the May 21 primary election will then square off against the only Republican candidate to qualify for the district attorney's race, former Trump White House Counsel's Office intern Courtney Kramer, according to The Hill, which also noted that Smith unsuccessfully ran against Willis in 2020.

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