Five running in Tuesday special election to fill David Ralston’s seat

Gov. Brian Kemp has endorsed Sheree Ralston in her race to fill her late husband’s seat
Special election being held for Georgia House District 7
Published: Jan. 2, 2023 at 11:38 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 3, 2023 at 1:28 PM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Voters in three north Georgia counties headed to the polls Tuesday for a special election to fill the seat held by the late Georgia House Speaker David Ralston.

Ralston died on Nov. 16 after an extended illness. The powerful House speaker, who represented north Georgia’s House District 7, had previously announced he would not run for reelection as House speaker due to health challenges.

House Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones, a metro Atlanta Republican, automatically became interim House speaker on Ralston’s death. In December, Georgia House Republicans elected state Rep. Jon Burns as the permanent new speaker. Burns, who’s currently the House majority leader, will officially become the House speaker when the 2023 legislative session begins next week.

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Five candidates, including Ralston’s widow Sheree Ralston, qualified for the seat, which includes Fannin and Gilmer counties and a portion of Dawson County. Also qualifying for the race are Johnny Chastain, Justin Heitman, Brian Pritchard and Richie Stone.

A runoff, if necessary, will be held on Jan. 31, 2023.

Gov. Brian Kemp endorsed Sheree Ralston, who is the executive director of the Fannin County Development Authority, after her announcement that she was entering the race.

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Ralston was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 2002 after spending six years in the Georgia Senate during the 1990s. He ran for attorney general in 1998, losing to Democrat Thurbert Baker.

Highlights of Ralston’s time as a speaker include his backing of the largest state income tax cut in Georgia history; a $900 million transportation funding bill that has helped the state plug a backlog of infrastructure improvements; and the first-ever paid parental leave policy for teachers and state employees.

Most recently, Ralston led the way to passing legislation that overhauled Georgia’s mental healthcare system.