State Watch

Georgia House Speaker dies at 68

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston
AP Photo/Jeff Amy
Georgia House Speaker David Ralston announces plans for a $1 billion state income tax cut on Tuesday, March 1, 2022, at the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta.

Georgia House of Representatives Speaker David Ralston (R), the longest-serving sitting Speaker of any state legislature in the nation, died on Wednesday following an extended illness. He was 68.

Ralston’s wife and family were with him when he passed away, according to a statement confirming his death.

Ralston became the Georgia House’s 73rd Speaker in 2010, and at the time of his death he was also the second-longest serving Speaker in the state’s history.

Just prior to last week’s midterms, Ralston announced he would not seek the role for the upcoming legislative term if his constituents reelected him, citing a “health challenge.” Ralston ran unopposed.

“Serving as Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives has been the honor of a lifetime, and I owe a heartfelt thank you to my colleagues for the trust and confidence they placed in me thirteen years ago,” he said in the announcement. 

“I need to take time to address a health challenge which has arisen recently, and the House needs a Speaker who can devote the necessary time and energy to the office,” he added. “I love the House and want to see the honorable men and women who serve in it succeed.”

During his tenure, Ralston led efforts to pass multiple conservative economic initiatives, including a large state income tax cut in 2018.

Ralston also worked to advance a bill following the 2020 presidential election that controversially changed Georgia’s election laws, including provisions related to mail voting and ballot counting. The bill had garnered criticisms from Stacey Abrams and other Democrats.

“David Ralston has been a steadfast leader for Georgia throughout his time as Speaker, and our state is better off thanks to his wisdom and commitment to all Georgians while guiding the House through challenging times,” Gov. Brian Kemp (R) said last week following Ralston’s announcement.

“Leigh Ann and I are sad to hear the news on Speaker Ralston’s passing,” said Rep.-elect Mike Collins (R-Ga.). “He was a tremendous leader for our state and will be missed by many.”

Despite his conservative victories, multiple Democrats paid tribute to Ralston’s leadership in the wake of his passing, hailing him as a moderate. 

Ralston at times worked to pass significant bipartisan legislation, including a law imposing criminal penalties for hate crimes following Ahmaud Arbery’s murder in the state.

“Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation. While we certainly disagreed often, Speaker Ralston’s presence will be missed under the Gold Dome,” Rep. Nikema Williams (D-Ga.) wrote on Twitter.

“Our policy differences aside, we found Speaker Ralston to be measured and level-handed. Our hearts go out to his family during this difficult time. His absence will be felt throughout Georgia, but his legacy and memory will live on,” Georgia House Minority Leader Gloria Butler (D) said in a statement. 

Tags David Ralston Georgia

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