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Deborah Gonzalez makes history as Georgia's first Hispanic district attorney

Gonzalez won the runoff for a race she could only compete in after suing the governor.

Deborah Gonzalez has made history several times over by winning the runoff in her race for district attorney in Georgia.

Gonzalez told NBC News her win Tuesday for Western Judicial Circuit district attorney makes her the first Latina to be elected a district attorney in the state, the first woman to serve as a district attorney in the circuit and the first Puerto Rican woman in the country to be elected a district attorney.

Gonzalez was able to compete for district attorney after the state’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously in her favor in her lawsuit against Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp. The Republican governor used a 2018 state law to delay the district attorney’s election until November 2022, prompting the court fight.

Gonzalez, a Democrat who ran as a progressive candidate, is a former state representative for Georgia House District 117, who defeated James Chafin for the office that serves Clarke County, which includes the city of Athens and also Oconee County, a suburban Athens county.

Image: Deborah Gonzalez
Deborah Gonzalez.Deborah Gonzalez for DA / via Facebook

Unofficial results from the race show that Gonzalez won about 51.66 percent of the vote to Chafin’s 48.34 percent in a race that drew 26,100 votes.

The candidates split the counties, with Chafin winning more votes in Oconee county than Gonzalez. But Gonzalez won more than double the votes than Chafin in Clarke County, the Georgia secretary of state’s results show.

“We did this together. This is the people’s vote. We are ready to roll up our sleeves, work really hard to bring justice to Athens and Oconee,” Gonzalez said in a Facebook video that she recorded late Tuesday.

"I have the highest admiration and respect for Deborah Gonzalez and especially for her win as district attorney," said Brenda Lopez Romero, who became the first Latina elected to Georgia's General Assembly when she was elected in 2017. "She fights against all obstacles including litigating when laws are unconstitutional."

Lopez Romero described Gonzalez as "a strong leader to usher in important criminal justice reform."

Gonzalez’s platform calls for some judicial reforms, including an end to cash bail, no use of the death penalty and addressing the racial disparity in the state’s justice system.

Gonzalez's victory follows President-elect Joe Biden’s win in Georgia in the presidential race, becoming the first Democratic presidential nominee to win the state since Bill Clinton in 1992.

Her win also precedes the critical runoffs Jan. 5 that will determine whether Republicans continue to control the U.S. Senate.

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