Columbus District Attorney Stacey Jackson

Stacey Jackson, district attorney for the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit.

Credit: Ledger-Enquirer / Mike Haskey

Beset by a serious illness and out on medical leave, Columbus District Attorney Stacey Jackson has decided not to run for a second term.

Jackson, 49, was appointed district attorney by Gov. Brian Kemp in May 2022. The office is up for election this year, and qualifying ends Friday at noon.

Don Kelly, now acting district attorney for the six-county Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit based in Muscogee County, said he will qualify for the office Thursday as a Republican.

The party primary will be May 21, and the general election will be Nov. 5.

Kelly said in a phone call with the Ledger-Enquirer that he met with Jackson and his parents Wednesday, and they told him Jackson was too ill to run for election.

“I am disappointed that Mr. Jackson is not able to run in this election,” Kelly said in a later news release. “We started the task of rebuilding the district attorney’s office together, and I plan to continue and build upon his solid record of service to the citizens of our circuit. It is a record of accomplishment in which Mr. Jackson and his family can take immense pride.”

Kelly, a 58-year-old Columbus native, has 22 years of experience as a prosecutor, most of it in the local circuit.

Don Kelly

Then-Senior Assistant District Attorney Don Kelly gives an opening statement in a Columbus murder trial before Judge Maureen Gottfried.

Credit: Ledger-Enquirer / Mike Haskey

“I will continue to focus on public safety, especially violent crimes, by holding those who commit crimes in our circuit responsible for their actions,” he said in the news release. “I believe that my experience as a career prosecutor and my knowledge of our circuit make me uniquely qualified to lead the office as we deal with the surge in violent crime that followed the last election.”

Kelly was Jackson’s chief assistant district attorney before Jackson went on medical leave Nov. 27.

Kelly graduated from Hardaway High School, the University of Georgia, and Georgia State University College of Law.

He said Jackson will remain district attorney as the election proceeds, his term in office concluding at the end of the year.

Kelly said that though Jackson is on medical leave, he is at home, and up and talking with his family and friends. The district attorney’s office has had to deal with widespread rumors of Jackson’s demise.

The office in an online post had to clarify his condition this week, writing, “Jackson has been under medical care, but he is very much still living. Please be respectful of Mr. Jackson, his office, and his family. Do not spread these rumors.”

Jackson, a native of Harris County, was appointed to the post after chaos in the local district attorney’s office led to the removal of former District Attorney Mark Jones, who in November 2021 pleaded guilty to misconduct. The governor suspended Jones after just 10 months in office.

Jones won election in 2020, defeating incumbent Julia Slater in the Democratic Primary with no further opposition.

Besides Muscogee, the judicial circuit includes the counties of Harris, Talbot, Taylor, Chattahoochee and Marion.

This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with the Ledger-Enquirer.