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Ralston named speaker of the House
North Georgia Republican elected on second ballot
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Rep. David Ralston was chosen Thursday by Georgia Republicans to be the next speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives.   

Ralston was elected on the second ballot. His election must be confirmed by the full House in January before it becomes official.  

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

The first vote came just before noon and Hembree was eliminated. The second ballot was cast about 12:20 p.m. The results were announced a short time later.  

Republicans will also choose a speaker pro tem and a majority whip during their caucus at the state capitol.  

House leadership has been uncertain since former Speaker Glenn Richardson, R-Hiram, resigned earlier this month. Richardson held the top job in the House for five years, but his admission that he suffered from depression and had attempted suicide, plus published reports of an affair with a lobbyist, led to his resignation from both the speaker's post and his House seat.  

Prior to the new speaker being named, Richardson spoke to the group, at times breaking down. He thanked fellow Republicans for their prayers and support in recent weeks.  

"I'm grateful that you allowed me to be your leader," Richardson said. "... Goodbye, my friends. I'll miss you."  

He was given a standing ovation at the end of his remarks.  

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

The uncertainty ended today when Republicans met in the House chambers at 11 a.m. to select new leaders. The only vote that will be official will be that of majority whip.

Choices for speaker and speaker pro tem have to be voted on by the entire House when it reconvenes in January.  However, with Republicans controlling 104 of 180 seats in the House, today's decision is all but certain to be final.