Keith Higgins confirmed Wednesday that he will be on the ballot in November as an independent candidate for Brunswick Judicial Circuit district attorney.
Higgins needed 3,526 signatures from registered voters — reduced from 5,038 due to the COVID-19 outbreak — in the five-county district, which is made up of Glynn, Camden, Wayne, Appling and Jeff Davis counties, to be included on the ballot as an independent candidate.
He exceeded that by more than double, accruing 8,500 signatures of which 6,500 had been verified as of Wednesday, according to a statement from Higgins’ campaign.
“Pre-COVID, we were able to get quite a few signatures at Bits and Bites that the Chamber of Commerce put on,” Higgins said. “But about mid-March, all of that went away.”
The outbreak of coronavirus in March hurt campaigning efforts by effectively ruling out rallies and other large gatherings. Higgins garnered signatures primarily via volunteers at smaller, outdoor events, throughout neighborhoods, and among civic groups, according to the campaign.
“Obviously, with the health crisis, we were totally shut down for the whole month of April,” Higgins said. “Part of our method was door-to-door traveling.”
From mid-March, when the COVID-19 outbreak was first declared in the U.S., through early May, Higgins’ campaign was “dead in the water” from a petition standpoint.
“There was a period of time where we felt discouraged and down about it and wondered how this was going to be possible,” Higgins said. “Then God showed me how. Come May 8, I couldn’t answer the phone fast enough.”
Only a few days earlier, a video of the Feb. 23 shooting of Ahmaud Arbery was released which would kick off a series of events leading to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s entry into the case and the arrest of the shooters, Travis and Gregory McMichael, and the person who filmed the shooting, William “Roddy” Brian.
Weeks of demonstrations and protests over the way the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office and the Glynn County Police Department handled the case followed suit. Criticisms of the incumbent DA, Jackie Johnson, translated at least in small part into support for Higgins.
He has refrained from using the shooting as a campaign issue, however.
That isn’t to say his campaign did nothing during this period. Higgins said he and his volunteers used every avenue — virtual meetings, teleconference, phone calls, going door-to-door and meeting one-on-one with voters — to reach the public.
“I sort of knew what I was signing up for in terms of getting signatures, but there was no way to know that COVID was coming,” Higgins said. “Campaigning in the age of COVID is a very unique experience.”
All that remains is to continue to run the best race possible and hope the effort pays off in November, he said.
Higgins, a Brunswick defense attorney and former assistant district attorney, first announced his campaign in January.
He will face Republican Johnson in the general election on Nov. 3. Early voting starts Oct. 12. The last day to register to vote in the election is Oct. 5.
There is no Democrat in the race.