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Local lawmaker voted to lead state House

Decision may be plus for Dawson

POSTED: December 23, 2009 4:00 a.m.
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David Ralston

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Local lawmakers say North Georgia got an early Christmas present last week when David Ralston was named the next speaker of the state House of Representatives.

  

“This is tremendous for this area,” said state Rep. Amos Amerson. “David and I shared representation of Dawson County and this will help out in satisfying some of the needs for that county.”

  

Ralston, a Republican from Blue Ridge, represents District 7, which includes portions of Dawson, Gilmer and Fannin counties. Amerson also represents a portion of Dawson.

  

“I’m just very humbled and honored that the majority of the House of Representatives put their confidence in me,” Ralston said Monday. “It’s going to be a tough job, but I’m excited about the challenge.”

  

Ralston succeeds Glenn Richardson of Hiram, who held the top job in the House for five years.

  

Reports of an extramarital affair with a lobbyist led to Richardson’s resignation.

 

He also has said he suffered from depression and had attempted suicide.

  

Lawmakers say Ralston should move quickly past the scandals that rocked his predecessor.

  

“I am confident in his abilities to lead the House ... as we offer solutions that help create more jobs for Georgians and position our state to lead the economic recovery,” said Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.

  

Ralston was elected on the second ballot. He still must be elected by the full House in January.

  

Rep. Larry O’Neal of Bonaire and Rep. Bill Hembree of Winston were the other candidates for the position.

  

“This House, that’s been battered over the last few weeks in a very significant way, has told Georgians that they’re ready to change,” Ralston told reporters. “It’s not business as usual anymore.”

  

Speaker Pro Tem Mark Burkhalter originally was expected to fill the speaker’s post, but took his name out of the running three days after Richardson announced his resignation.

  

Ralston fell short in a bid last year for speaker, receiving support then from area Reps. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, and Doug Collins, R-Gainesville.

  

Cagle, a Republican from Chestnut Mountain, noted that lawmakers have their work cut out for them in January.

  

“We face many critical decisions this session — balancing a budget with an expected billion-dollar shortfall, implementing policy that will attract and grow business in Georgia, promoting new and greater levels of transparency in government and ethics reform, and protecting our state’s water resources,” he said.

  

U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, who is running for governor, also released a statement congratulating Ralston on his selection.

  

“I respect and trust David and his ability to lead the House,” said the Republican from Gainesville.

  

Jeff Gill of the DCN regional staff contributed to this report.

 

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